Dirk Hofäcker, Stefanie König
Flexibility and work-life conflict in times of crisis: a gender perspective

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 2013: 33, issue 9/10, pp. 613-635
ISSN: 0144-333X

Purpose – This paper aims to investigate the effect of flexible working conditions on work-family conflict in European countries. Flexible work has increasingly been used by employers to adapt to the demands of economic competition, often at the expense of employee's demands. Yet, at the same time, flexible work can provide a means to better combine work and family obligations. The paper seeks to explore which of these effects dominates for different types of flexible employment, paying specific attention to gender-specific effects. Design/methodology/approach – For the cross-national analysis of work-life-conflict, the authors employ the latest wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) from 2010, featuring a module on “Family, work and well-being”. Binomial logistic regression is used to identify determinants of work-life-conflict both on the micro- and the macro-level. In addition to looking at flexible work forms as a phenomenon per se, specific attention is given to the experience of different types of employment flexibilization throughout the financial crisis. Findings – For both genders, irregularity and unpredictability of working hours negatively impact on work-life conflict beyond the mere amount of working hours. Yet, higher autonomy in choosing one's work time is used very differently: While women tend to use their control over working hours to achieve a better work-life-balance, men tend to use these arrangements to increase their work commitment, thereby enhancing their perceived work-family conflict. The authors argue that this gender-specific use of flexible work arrangements might still reflect the traditional gender roles and gender-segregated labour market structures. Adding to previous literature, the authors furthermore demonstrate that gender-specific differences are also apparent in the effects of the most recent economic crisis.