Comparing Work-Life Conﬂict in Europe: Evidence
from the European Social Survey
Frances McGinnity Æ Christopher T. Whelan
Accepted: 21 December 2008 / Published online: 6 February 2009
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009
This special issue compares work-life conﬂict in Europe using the European Social Survey:
this introductory article attempts to provide a synthesis of the issue. It sets the scene for the
papers that follow, discussing the concept of work-life conﬂict and its measurement. It
considers previous research and approaches, before considering the themes of individual
articles. All the articles, and this editorial essay, draw on the valuable insights of an
excellent team of reviewers.
Reconciling work and family commitments has become a critical issue in European
societies, against a backdrop of globalization and rapid technological change, an ageing
population and concerns over labour market participation and falling fertility (OECD 2001;
Jacobs and Gerson 2004). Within the European union the ‘reconciliation of work and
family’ has become a core concern for policy and encouraged national-level debate and
policy intervention. As an indicator of quality of life, work-life balance has gained both
academic and policy currency. Work-life conﬂict has a potentially detrimental impact on
personal effectiveness, marital relations, child–parent relationships and even child devel-
opment (Gornick and Meyers 2003). It has also been linked to decreased job and life
satisfaction as well as stress-related outcomes including psychological strain, anxiety and
depression, exhaustion and alcohol abuse (Allen et al. 2000).
The increased focus on work-life conﬂict is associated not only with a greater emphasis
on quality of life but also with emerging challenges to long-standing welfare state
arrangements. The increasing salience of human capital, adaptability and ﬂexibility has
F. McGinnity (&)
Economic and Social Research Institute, Whitaker Square, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2,
C. T. Whelan
UCD School of Sociology, Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belﬁeld, Dublin 4, Ireland
A list of reviewers’ names is provided in Appendix 2, in recognition of their contribution.
Soc Indic Res (2009) 93:433–444
focused attention on the need to reconcile investment in children with sustained labour
force participation and human capital accumulation over the life cycle (Bovenberg 2007).
Attention has increasingly focused on the distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ social risks.
Taylor-Gooby (2004) notes that the latter are associated with care responsibilities primarily
at the stage of family building, and extend demand for state intervention into areas of life
that had been seen as private from an old risks perspective.
Under the traditional male breadwinner model competing demands in the employment
and family sphere were managed by a division of labour between the sexes, whereby men
were primarily responsible for paid employment and women were primarily responsible for
caring. The growth in female employment and dual-earner families, the rise in lone parent
families and the ageing population mean that an increasing number of EU citizens now
have to combine both employment roles and caring responsibilities in relation to both
children and older people. Currently, most fathers are employed full-time and most
mothers work for pay: many parents are struggling to ﬁnd employment arrangements that
are economically viable, beneﬁcial to children, and equitable (Gornick 2007). Increased
time pressures and strains are also thought to arise within the workplace. While the
direction of long-term trends in the hours of work is debated, there is considerable evi-
dence of increased work intensity throughout Europe (Thirion et al. 2007).
Yet while many EU countries share common features, there are also differences.
Common problems generate hybrid responses conditioned by pre-existing institutional
arrangements but shaped also by the kind of learning experiences that the EU seeks to
promote through the Open method of coordination (Ferrera and Rhodes 2000; Surender
2004). The shape and nature of employment is different: for example in some countries
part-time work is common, in others, it represents a small proportion of employment. In
some countries, mothers’ and fathers’ employment rates are rather similar, in others they
vary enormously. Policies vary too: for example the way in which working patterns are
structured by regulation and employers—working hours, annual leave entitlement, avail-
ability of ﬂexible working arrangements. Family leave rights and beneﬁts and support for
childcare, as well as the overall tax-beneﬁt regime also vary (Gornick 2007). Gender role
attitudes differ, particularly regarding support for maternal employment (Lueck 2006).
Many countries in the newly enlarged EU had decades of communist family and
employment policies, in contrast to the democracies, albeit in differing forms, of the West.
All of these factors may inﬂuence individuals’ ability to combine work and non-work
The existence of so much variability, against a backdrop of commonality, motivates this
special issue. In this collection of articles we wish to investigate if and how work-life
conﬂict varies cross-nationally. In evaluating the conclusions of individual articles it is
necessary to take into account that in commenting on cross-country differences some
authors wish to control for factors that others choose to include in their estimates of
country effects. The precise meaning of country effects is thus dependent on the speciﬁc
questions that authors have sought to address. Overall our focus is less on variation in
levels of work-life conﬂict but rather on the manner in which processes and factors
associated with work-life conﬂict vary across countries. To investigate this question, all the
articles use a high-quality data source with identical indicators for each country, the
European social survey (ESS), which has a specially designed module on work-life balance
and is cross-nationally representative. This special module on family, work and well-being
(2004) is particularly well suited to examining country variation in work-family balance in
a wide range of countries, for many of whom this topic has not been previously investi-
gated. Articles focus on a range of themes and select varying numbers of countries for the
434 F. McGinnity, C. T. Whelan
analysis but they are all comparative, and all use ESS data. The special issue offers readers
new insights into the interface between work and family life in the new European union,
touching on recent changes in forms of employment and family forms, changes in work
intensity, upskilling, debates on time poverty and busyness, on social class, on social
comparison, job allocation, gender and motherhood wage penalties and gender differences
in the distribution of paid and unpaid labour.
2 Work Life Conﬂict: Concepts and Measurement
Work-life balance is the term which has gained popularity, and is in many ways a favourite
formula in today’s literature about the (post) modern working world, though as some
authors note, a concern with the interaction between paid work and other domains of life is
not new (Lewis et al. 2007). While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, we
prefer work-life conﬂict to work-life balance, as it draws attention to the challenges,
tensions and trade-offs which may be associated with combining work and family life. The
focus is on the trade-offs and the central idea is that meeting demands in one domain
makes it difﬁcult to meet obligations in the other (Felstead et al. 2002; Steiber 2007; for a
discussion of deﬁnitions see Greenhaus and Singh 2003). Such conﬂict can take two forms:
from work to family and from family to work, although work tends to affect family more
than vice versa (Byron 2005). This special issue incorporates concern with both work-to-
life and life-to-work issues but with a somewhat greater emphasis on the former. Some
authors limit the focus to ‘work-family conﬂict’, considering just couples or parents, some
consider all employees, and broaden the concept to consider conﬂict with other aspects of
life, not just family or partner, for which the most appropriate term is ‘work-to-life’.
appeal of the concept in research terms is that it allows a wider understanding of non-work
concerns to be encompassed in employment research.
The concept of work-life conﬂict is not without limitations. The term has been criticised
as being a fashionable term with a short shelf-life (Hildebrandt and Littig 2006). Others
argue that the concept assumes clearly deﬁned spheres of work and life, while the dis-
tinction between work and non-work activities is not unproblematic, as much time-use
research shows (Hildebrandt and Littig 2006; Gershuny 2000). In employing the concept it
is important to keep in mind the limits to our understanding posed by the fact that work-life
conﬂict is observed only for those in employment, and those with very high work-life
conﬂict may have exited the labour market. A ﬁnal limitation is that the focus here is on
current work-family tensions and there may well be other current and future ‘costs’ that
cannot be addressed within this issue. For instance, some households may have minimised
conﬂict at the cost of postponed or limited family formation. Similarly there may be longer
term labour market costs of reconciling work and family life, for instance with respect to
wages and career development.
Work-life conﬂict has been measured in a number of ways. Some authors take
‘objective’ indicators of conﬂict by assuming, say, that part-time work is an indicator of
low work-life conﬂict (e.g., McGinnity and McManus 2007 and other articles in this
special issue) or they assume that high paid work hours are inimical to work-life balance
As MacInnes (2006) notes, there is continual tension in both the academic literature and policy discus-
sions as to whether the work-life conﬂict refers to just parents (hence ‘work-family conﬂict’) or to all adults;
whether ‘life’ refers to caring, or leisure or both (see MacInnes 2006, for a discussion).
Comparing Work-life Conﬂict in Europe 435
(Gornick and Meyers 2003). Writers from a time-use perspective usually add paid and
unpaid work hours (e.g., Bittman 2004).
A more common approach to work-life conﬂict focuses on the assessment of the
individual. This perspective assumes that work-life conﬂict is primarily subjective, and
allows for variability in responses to the objective conditions arising from difference in
resources, energy, motivations and expectations. The respondent’s deﬁnition of the situ-
ation comes to play an important role. Some papers in this issue use a subjective index of
work-life conﬂict as the dependent variable (Russell and Gallie; McGinnity and Calvert;
Kasearu) or single items (Steiber); others use a broader measure of life satisfaction (Boye)
or a series of measures combining both (Scherer).
Yet a crucial point to recognise about subjective indicators of work-life balance or life
satisfaction is that they reﬂect the interaction between people’s situation and their
expectations (Fahey et al. 2003). Expectations may adapt to the situation. Objective
indicators (i.e., poverty) often do not correlate well with subjective counterparts (i.e., life
satisfaction). Recent research looks at liveability and comparison (reference group) theo-
ries, notions of threshold effects, or the impact of relative versus absolute differences in
objective variables (Veenhoven 1996). People evaluate their objective standards by
comparing their actual situation to reference points. This can be their past situation, the
situation of people similar to themselves or their notion of what is reasonable or practical
in current circumstances. That said, establishing reference groups can be very challenging,
as discussed in a paper by Katarina Boye in this volume.
We use both subjective and objective indicators, adopting a sociological perspective
that focusing entirely on one or the other would miss an important part of the reality we are
trying to capture (Fahey et al. 2003). Our focus is on the relationship between reported
satisfaction/work-life balance and resources, conditions and workload, and the factors
mediating that relationship.
3 Research on Work-Life Conﬂict
Recent research on the topic has adopted a number of different approaches. Studies have
focused on theoretical issues (Guest 2002; Voydanoff 2004), single country studies
(Fagnani and Letablier 2004; Kinnunen and Mauno 2004), middle class couples (Schneider
and Waite 2005); occupational groups (Greenhaus et al. 2003) and organisational and
sectoral case studies (Perrons 2003; White et al. 2003). Organisational, occupational and
sectoral case studies give depth and insight into processes and practices at the ﬁrm level,
but ﬁndings may be sensitive to the choice of cases. This is also true of Schneider and
Waite’s (2005) innovative study of work-life balance among middle class couples. It is rich
in data sources and methods but limited to dual-earning middle class US couples. It is
difﬁcult to generalise from single country studies, as they do nothing to establish whether
the processes are generalisable across countries: post-hoc comparisons are affected by
differences in approach, samples and measurement.
Cross-national comparative research on the level and determinants of work-life conﬂict
is in its infancy. The studies that do exist have stressed the importance of considering the
full range of mediating institutional-level factors (Crompton and Lyonette 2006; Scherer
and Steiber 2007). These include welfare regime and the extent of reconciliation or
‘family-friendly’ policies such as the availability of parental leave, the right to ﬂexible
working arrangements, and the costs and coverage of childcare provision (Strandh and
Nordenmark 2006; Van der Lippe et al. 2006; Gornick 2007). A recent special issue
436 F. McGinnity, C. T. Whelan
investigates the effect of policies on work-life balance from a theoretical/policy perspec-
tive (Gornick 2006). A forthcoming one considers the role of choice and constraint in
achieving work-life balance in different contexts using a variety of approaches, mostly case
studies (Gregory and Milner 2009).
The special issue edited by Janet Gornick uses a wide variety of comparative data
sources and approaches. The European working conditions surveys (EWCS), conducted by
the European foundation of working and living conditions provides excellent comparative
evidence on the whole range of European countries (e.g., Thirion et al. 2007) but are not
suited to exploring gender attitudes and arrangements in the domestic sphere, and the
question on work-life conﬂict consists of a single item limited to working time.
What does the ESS offer? The ESS is an academically-driven social survey designed to
chart and explain the interaction between Europe’s changing institutions and the attitudes,
beliefs and behaviour patterns of its diverse populations. Its three main aims are to:
produce rigorous data about people’s underlying values within and between European
nations; to rectify longstanding deﬁcits in the rigour and equivalence of comparative
quantitative research, especially in attitude surveys, and to develop and gain acceptance for
social indicators, in addition to economic indicators of societal progress (Jowell et al.
2007). The survey covers over 30 countries and employs rigorous survey methodologies.
The ESS is among the ﬁrst social science projects to receive funding to support its
infrastructure and in 2005 was awarded Europe’s top annual science award, the Descartes
prize ‘for excellence in collaborative social research’.
The ESS special module on family, work and well-being (2004) was speciﬁcally
designed to make possible an analysis of the impact of policy variation and the manner in
which it affects work-family balance in a wide range of countries, in many of whom this
topic has not been previously investigated. Questions in the special module cover topics
such as work-family conﬂict and work-family spillover; work pressure, autonomy, pay and
conditions of work; unpaid work, division of household labour and childcare. The data
offers a unique opportunity to examine work-life conﬂict in Europe.
The speciﬁc work-life conﬂict indicators, used in a variety of papers, either in com-
bination as a composite index or individually, are the following: ‘How often do you keep
worrying about work problems when you are not working?’ ‘How often do you feel too
tired after work to enjoy the things you would like to do at home?’ ‘How often do you ﬁnd
that your job prevents you from giving the time you want to your partner or family?’ and
‘How often do you ﬁnd that your partner or family gets fed up with the pressure of your
These indicators are standard in the literature and widely used, though they do share
with general work-life conﬂict debates a lack of clarity as to whether the issue at stake is
work-life conﬂict, or work-family conﬂict, and whether life refers to caring or leisure or
both (see MacInnes 2006 on this debate). This point is echoed by Pichler (2008), specif-
ically referring to ESS data, when he argues that the work dimensions of work-life conﬂict
in such indicators are more clearly conceptualised than the life indicators. More conceptual
work may be needed on the meaning of ‘life’ in work-life conﬂict debates, in tandem with
increased development of the ‘life’ indicators for survey research on work-life conﬂict. A
The question from the third and fourth working conditions surveys is: ‘Do your working hours ﬁt in with
your family or social commitments outside work?’.
The ﬁeldwork has been funded through the European Commission’s ﬁfth and sixth Framework Pro-
gramme, the European Science Foundation and national funding bodies in each country.
A ﬁfth question ‘How often do you ﬁnd it difﬁcult to concentrate on work because of your family?’ refers
to family-to-work conﬂict, but is not used in any of the papers.
Comparing Work-life Conﬂict in Europe 437
linked critique is that the wordings of the work-life balance indicators lay too much
emphasis on work as the probable explanation of work-life conﬂict or lack of time (Pichler
2008). However, the beneﬁt of this wording is that the source of the problem is clearly
identiﬁed. Other, more general formulations would offer considerably less clarity.
European social survey response rates in general were high, with about half the
countries achieving the target response rate of 70% (see appendix Table 1 for details).
Great efforts were made in the ESS to ensure equivalence of questions across countries/
languages, which is crucial, given how sensitive attitudinal questions can be to question
wording (Jowell et al. 2007).
The key strengths of the ESS are its cross-national representativeness and equivalence.
It constitutes the outstanding source of data for European comparative research on work-
life balance. Such data will never have the depth or nuance of qualitative studies, the
detailed context of company case studies or of individuals’ own accounts of balancing
work and family life. Crucially the data is cross-sectional, so inferences about causality or
conclusions about change over time are not possible. The articles in this volume seek to
exploit the strengths of the ESS data.
4 Overview of the Papers
This special issue comprises papers covering a wide range of themes and approaches. The
number of countries in each paper varies from 5 to 25: individual papers justify the
selection of countries on the basis of their research question. Authors draw on a variety of
different accounts of institutional and labour market variation, and a variety of theoretical
perspectives. What the papers share is an overall comparative strategy which investigates
the processes of interest and then asks do these differ across countries.
In the context of work intensiﬁcation debates, Duncan Gallie and Helen Russell, in the
ﬁrst article in the volume, explore the inﬂuence of working conditions on work-life conﬂict
in seven West European countries—Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, The Nether-
lands, UK and France. They ﬁnd that working conditions have a strong inﬂuence on the
level of work-family conﬂict, measured as a composite index, in all seven countries. Work
pressure has the most negative impact and the authors conclude that the marked rise in
levels of work pressure in European countries since the early 1990s has contributed sub-
stantially to greater strain in managing work and family life. Rising skills levels in these
countries may also have contributed, given that higher skill levels are associated with
heightened work-life conﬂict.
Male employees in northern European societies display the lowest level of work-family
conﬂict, a ﬁnding the authors attribute to shorter working hours and greater ﬂexibility in
assigning those hours. For female employees, no distinct pattern emerges and the authors
argue that the origins of work-life conﬂict in the workplace may partly explain this. In the
Scandanavian countries, where care/parental supports facilitate high employment among
women, this is associated with longer working hours and higher levels of work pressure. In
Britain and The Netherlands, family pressures are reduced due to the fact that many
mothers work part-time.
Another criticism is that work-life conﬂict is not well correlated with more general indicators of life
satisfaction (Pichler 2008). Yet a number of studies ﬁnd that work-life conﬂict measured in a rather different
way, for example, as time stress, has a signiﬁcant but modest association with work-life conﬂict (McGinnity
and Russell 2007).
438 F. McGinnity, C. T. Whelan
Three papers address different debates in the work-life conﬂict literature. Nadia Steiber
argues that it is useful to distinguish time-based and strain-based conﬂict, and uses the ESS
indicators to do so in her contribution, which is based on 23 countries. She also distin-
guishes the impact of work demands, like long work hours, unpredictable work hours,
evening/night/weekend work, from work resources like skill, time autonomy, job auton-
omy (control) and career prospects. The expectation is that work demands should
exacerbate work-life conﬂict, while work resources will reduce it.
In general Steiber ﬁnds interesting gender differences in the factors associated with
work-life conﬂict. Work demands such as long, unsocial and unpredictable working hours
as well as work pressure increase work-life conﬂict, for both men and women. However,
caring responsibilities increase time-based conﬂict for women only, while job insecurity
increases strain-based conﬂict for men only. Using 23 countries allows Steiber to apply
multi-level modelling to ESS data to formally model cross-country variation. Focusing on
a sample of dual-earner couples, she ﬁnds that country effects are small. She thus con-
cludes that the experience of work-family conﬂict appears to be only weakly moderated by
institutional or cultural effects.
The next paper considers the supposition that work-life conﬂict is all part of a new
West European culture of ‘busyness’ (e.g., Strandh and Nordenmark 2006). Drawing on
debates from the time-use literature that busyness is a privileged position (Gershuny
2005) and that much time poverty is ‘yuppie kvetch’ or complaining (Hammermesh and
Lee 2007), Frances McGinnity and Emma Calvert explore the relationship between work-
life conﬂict and social inequality in eight West European countries: Germany, France,
Spain, UK, Ireland, The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. To what extent is work-life
conﬂict a problem of the rich and privileged professional classes, and is this true across
The authors ﬁnd higher work-life conﬂict among the professional classes in all eight
countries. Some of this is explained by the fact that professionals work longer hours and
experience more work pressure than other social classes, though the effect remains even
after accounting for these factors. While levels of work-life conﬂict vary across the
countries studied, country variation in class differences is modest, though class differ-
ences in work-life conﬂict are weakest in Sweden. The authors reﬂect on other
explanations of why work-life conﬂict is higher among higher earners, and the policy
implications of their ﬁndings, given recent European debates on why welfare states cannot
afford to lose high-skilled female labour if they are to enhance competitiveness and
As noted above, work-life conﬂict may in part be inﬂuenced by social comparison. In
her paper, Katarina Boye uses ESS data to explore some more subjective elements of
satisfaction in 25 countries. She examines whether social comparison affects the associ-
ation between work and well-being, using the ESS to construct reference groups on the
basis of country, sex and presence and age of children. The idea is that, for example,
differences in hours of paid and unpaid work relative to key comparison groups may have
an impact over and above absolute hours. She also explores the extent to which the
relationship between hours and well-being varies between men and women, and the extent
to which it is mediated by gender role attitudes.
In general she ﬁnds that while men’s well-being appears to be unaffected by hours of
paid work and housework, women’s well-being increases with paid working hours and
decreases with increased housework hours. Gender role attitudes do not appear to play a
signiﬁcant role in mediating the association between hours worked and well-being.
However, within-country reference groups do appear to have some inﬂuence on women in
Comparing Work-life Conﬂict in Europe 439
relation to housework: compared to women in the same family situation, women who do
less housework report higher well-being.
Two other papers focus on changing employment forms (temporary contract) and
changing family forms (cohabitation) and their association with work-life conﬂict.
One changing form of employment which has received much attention in both aca-
demic and policy circles in Europe is temporary or ﬁxed-term contracts (OECD 2002).
Work has proliferated in recent years on the labour market and wage impact of these
contracts, but much less is known about the ‘social consequences’ of ﬁxed-term contracts,
and their impact of quality of life. In her contribution, Stefani Scherer investigates the
impact of having a ﬁxed-term contract on the interface between work and family life in
16 West European countries. Scherer takes a broader view of the interface than simply
work-life conﬂict, and outcomes investigated include fertility plans, job worries, life
satisfaction, income worries and health problems, in addition to work-life conﬂict
The author ﬁnds that ﬁxed-term contract employment is associated with negative effects
for a range of social and family outcomes and these differences are partly but not fully
explained by either working conditions or subjective job insecurity. The range of difﬁ-
culties that arise include lower work satisfaction, lack of time for one’s family, household
income problems, family conﬂicts and child birth planning. Thus, Scherer argues, tem-
porary contracts do not seem to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life, but
rather exacerbate levels of conﬂict, dissatisfaction and economic pressure. Overall, insti-
tutions such as the welfare state are important in shaping subjective indicators of individual
and family life, though they only marginally affect the social consequences of non-stable
A changing social form which has received particular attention in the US, to a much
lesser extent in Europe, is cohabitation. Taking a selection of countries where cohabitation
has a very different history and social signiﬁcance, Kairi Kasearu considers whether work-
life conﬂict differs between married and cohabiting couples and how this varies in ﬁve
countries—Britain, Sweden, Germany, Estonia and Slovenia.
Work-life conﬂict, measured as a composite index, is somewhat lower for cohabiting
men than married men, though there are no differences between married and cohabiting
women. Kasearu ﬁnds that variation across couple type is completely explained by
differences in socio-demographic characteristics, working conditions and attitudes. The
exception is Sweden, where cohabiting women experience higher work-life conﬂict,
even controlling for these factors, and the author considers why the Swedish case might
be different. The key message is that cohabiting itself has no impact. The
author suggests that cohabitation may be more similar to marriage in European than in
The ﬁnal two papers focus on wages and how they are related to work-family con-
cerns. Vanessa Gash investigates how ongoing difﬁculties in work-family reconciliation
result in inferior labour market outcomes for mothers, relative to women with no children.
She ﬁnds mothers occupy an inferior market segment and earn a wage penalty in most of
the six countries studied: Finland, Denmark, West Germany, France, The Netherlands,
and The UK. Nonetheless, she ﬁnds strong institutional effects: in countries unsupportive
of working motherhood, working mothers are more likely to occupy disadvantageous
labour market positions relative to non-mothers, and incur a higher wage penalty. The
United Kingdom and West Germany provide the least support for working mothers as
440 F. McGinnity, C. T. Whelan
well as the largest penalties to motherhood. Using ESS data, Gash explores two expla-
nations for mothers’ lower pay: that mothers trade wages for favourable, family-friendly
working conditions and that they differ attitudinally from non-mothers, and that these
‘attitudes’ warrant less pay. She ﬁnds some evidence of mothers accepting lower paid
jobs in Britain, a country with a high motherhood wage penalty, but no support for it in
the other countries. She also ﬁnds no evidence that mothers differ attitudinally to non-
Javier Polavieja develops a rational action model of job allocation and explores its
consequences for wages. He argues that the division of housework, job-specialisation
requirements and imperfect information generate an incentive structure for individuals,
which leads to gender differences in job allocation and wages. These incentives can be
inﬂuenced by ‘macro level’ welfare policies and services, which may reduce the eco-
nomic pay-offs of a traditional gender division of labour. Polavieja tests this model using
ESS data on couples in 12 countries, fully exploiting the wide range of theoretically
relevant variables on the dataset. The key ﬁnding is that gender differences in job spe-
cialisation and housework can explain the effect of occupational sex-composition on
wages, even after accounting for gender differences in sex-role attitudes and personality
The paper then investigates how incentive structures vary across welfare regime clus-
ters: Polavieja ﬁnds that the association between housework and earnings is much weaker
in societies with higher levels of decommodiﬁcation (state/social policy allows indepen-
dence from the market) and defamilization (state/social policy allows independence from
the family), particularly the Scandanavian welfare cluster, to a lesser extent the post-
The literature on work-life conﬂict is growing rapidly in volume and complexity. This
collection of articles aims to contribute to these exciting developments on a number of
fronts: by broadening the range of countries considered; by using a wide range of quan-
titative indicators associated with work-life conﬂict from an excellent, dedicated survey
and by assessing the impact of the changing nature of work on the interface between work
and life. The ﬁndings from this volume suggest that work-life conﬂict is more than just a
fashionable term or a passing fad. It touches on core issues relating to the changing nature
of work and the role it plays in people’s lives. Viewing individuals as simply ‘workers’ is
no longer an option for employers and governments. If EU governments are serious about
achieving high employment economies without compromising fertility, i.e., the ability of
those societies to reproduce themselves, work-life conﬂict is likely to stay on the agenda
for many years to come.
Acknowledgments This special issue is the result of a collaborative research project among members of
the Economic change, Quality of life and social cohesion (EQUALSOC) Network of excellence, funded by
the European commission (DG research) as part of the sixth framework programme (www.equalsoc.org).
The network has provided the opportunity and resources for the authors to meet on a regular basis to
discuss underlying issues and comment upon each others work. The articles are all based on the European
social survey (ESS), and we are very grateful to Roger Jowell and his colleagues for implementing and
providing this excellent data source (www.europeansocialsurvey.org). We are also grateful to the 18
reviewers, whose insightful and critical comments have improved this volume immensely. Their names are
listed in Appendix 2 in recognition of their contribution. Thanks also to Alex Michalos, the editor of Social
Indicators Research, for his support of our project, and to Chiara Saraceno for the idea of compiling a
special issue. Thanks too to Javier Polavieja, Nadia Steiber and Helen Russell for their comments on this
introduction, and a special thanks to Emma Calvert for her enthusiastic assistance in putting the collection
Comparing Work-life Conﬂict in Europe 441
See Table 1.
Table 1 ESS 2004 response rates by country
Country Achieved interviews Response rate (%)
Austria 2,256 62.4
Belgium 1,778 61.2
Czech Republic 3,026 55.3
Denmark 1,487 64.2
Estonia 1,989 79.1
Finland 2,022 70.7
France 1,806 43.6
Germany 2,870 51
Greece 2,406 78.8
Hungary 1,498 65.9
Iceland 579 51.3
Ireland 2,286 62.5
Italy 1,529 59.3
Luxembourg 1,635 50.1
The Netherlands 1,881 64.3
Norway 1,760 66.2
Poland 1,716 73.7
Portugal 2,052 71.2
Slovakia 1,512 62.7
Slovenia 1,442 70.2
Spain 1,663 54.9
Sweden 1,948 65.4
Switzerland 2,141 48.6
Turkey 1,856 50.7
Ukraine 2,031 66.6
United Kingdom 1,897 50.6
442 F. McGinnity, C. T. Whelan
Appendix 2: List of Reviewers
Mick Cunningham, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA.
Shirley Dex, Institute of Education, London, England.
Jaap Dronkers, European University Institute, Florence, Italy.
Ann Zoﬁe Duvander, Institute of Sociology, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Colette Fagan, University of Manchester, Manchester, England.
Tony Fahey, University College, Dublin, Ireland.
Duncan Gallie, Nufﬁeld College, Oxford, England.
Jonathan Gershuny, University of Oxford, England.
Janet Gornick, Baruch College, City University of New York, New York, USA.
Steffen Hillmert, University of Tuebingen, Germany.
Kathleen Kiernan, University of York, York, England.
Richard Layte, Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin, Ireland.
Patricia McManus, Indiana University, Bloomington IN, USA.
Magnus Nermo, Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm, Sweden.
Philip O’Connell, Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin, Ireland.
Michael Tahlin, Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm, Sweden.
Tanja van der Lippe, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Claire Wallace, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland.
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Bittman, M. (2004). Parenting and employment: What time-use surveys show. In N. Folbre & M. Bittman
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Bovenberg, A. L. (2007). The life-course perspective and social policies: An overview of the issues.
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Byron, K. (2005). A meta-analytic review of work-family conﬂict and its antecedents. Journal of Vocational
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Crompton, R., & Lyonette, C. (2006). Work-life ‘Balance’ in Europe. Acta Sociologica, 49(4), 379–393.
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444 F. McGinnity, C. T. Whelan