In the current economic crisis, middle class families are often faced with problems related to the reconciliation of work and family, especially when both spouses are forced to extend their working hours to reach the end of the month. Researchers of Social Work, National University of Distance Education (UNED) –members of the research group Koinonía– have analyzed this phenomenon, which differs in terms of gender. Sagrario Segado and Antonio Lopez, the authors of the study, discusses their implications:
Interview with Sagrario Segado and Antonio Lopez
What role are having families of middle-class spain in the economic crisis?
The middle classes constitute the backbone of the welfare state, are the main consumers and also, the main taxpayers that allow the feasibility of our system. In this crisis, are being badly hit by the unemployment, the precariousness and the consequent decrease in social.
And what happens with the expectations of a better future?
The principle that articulates the behavior of the middle classes is the so-called ‘satisfaction deferred’. That is to say, strive today to be able to have tomorrow, a better life. To worsen the prospects of living at least as your parents, this idea falters and has an effect devastating on society as a whole. The expectations of being able to live or reproduce the style of life of the middle classes or middle-high are one of the engines of our societies.
The results of their research reveal that there has been a new conflict in the family in Spain: the problem of family-work. What was not there before?
It has always existed but this problem is exacerbated in a society like the current one, in which the population demands goods and services 24 hours a day, and men and women worked very long days, with schedules, shifts or night. Until a few years ago, middle class families have traditionally had the resources to cushion this conflict: either by serve as a means or high that allowed them to negotiate the terms with your employer or be able to pay for help in the home to comply with their demands.
What happens today?
Currently, the negotiation within companies has become much more difficult because of this demand for 24 hour services. In addition, to afford aid in the work of the home, its price has risen substantially. That is to say, middle-class families face a conflict, family-work exacerbated by the crisis and the market conditions, without access to the necessary tools and traditionally used to be able to survive.
Why have they chosen in their study of families with educational level intermediate-high couples married and employed?
Because they constitute a group little studied, and represents well the middle-class and upper-middle Spanish, where many couples have studies intermediate or high. This is a group that is immersed in a process of progressive degradation, becoming, in some cases, users of social services, in the wake of the economic crisis.
What variables have been paid attention to?
The conflict family-work, to the influence of the support for the care of the family and how the presence or absence of this support can buffer or precipitating the feeling of “being burned out” as much in men as in women.
What differences have been found in terms of gender?
Men the conflict of the work, it causes interference in the family, and in women, the conflict in the family generates them more problems in the workplace. Missing reconciliation policies and the distribution of roles has still some weight in the bosom of the Spanish families
Is there any way to overcome these differences?
Social support at all levels, from the micro-level (domestic help) up to the macro level (political reconciliation), for the care of the family is key: when the family account with it, decreases stress and feelings of ineffectiveness in women as in men. On the other hand, when you lack time to take care of the home, women experience greater discomfort than men, suggesting that the breakdown of traditional roles still prevalent in the care of the family.
How do you manage the family burdens on these families?
The family burdens are not elective, that is to say, the parents cannot postpone the needs of a home. For this reason, the families as a group, and its members individually, are forced to satisfy some demands of the job that at least enable them to survive economically, but that does not leave large space to the subsistence, personal and emotional. Its members are exhausted in the attempt to meet the demands of one and another area, without obtaining satisfactory results. Spanish families dispossessed of their middle class are forced to choose between work or family.
How do you expect that to evolve this problem?
The hours will extend in this society, and therefore it is necessary to establish better reconciliation policies. Not to do so, will increase the intensity of this conflict. Given that middle-class families in our country have been increased, and also, your situation of social vulnerability, from the Social Work we need to design better support programmes that favour the conciliation of family and work for a group that traditionally has not made use of these services.
What these families are the current challenge of Social Work in Spain?
In this context of economic crisis, many middle-class families are immersed in a context of social exclusion, where not even the economic viability is guaranteed. The impact of the crisis are emphasized, as those accustomed to the comfort that provides social inclusion, and break even more to your lack. This is not only to reproduce the style of life inherited, or corresponding with what is understood as “middle class”. Rather, it’s about not losing it completely, in this debate between family and work. These families constitute a new challenge for Social Work in our country, so it is.
– Interview in English
Source: divulgauned.it is
Bibliographic reference: Sagrario Segado Sánchez-Cabezudo, Antonio López Peláez. “Social work with middle-class Spanish families: The challenge of the work-family conflict”, International Journal of Social Welfare, 2014, no. 23, pp. 100-111. DOI: 10.1111/ijsw.12012.
For more information:
Laura Chaparro – Unit of Scientific Culture (UCC+i/FECYT)