Work Life Balance Programs at Workplaces in the US

Author Name KUROSAWA Masako  (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies)
Creation Date/NO. March 2011 11-J-038
Research Project International Comparison of Measures to Improve Work-Life Balance and Consideration of Challenges Facing Japanese Companies
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With the very limited policy intervention, work-life balance (WLB) enhancing programs available at workplaces in the US are not as prevalent as those observed in most continental European countries. Nevertheless, starting in the late 80s, firms began to introduce WLB enhancing programs, mostly in terms of flexible schedules, as ways to help workers and improve firm performance. The availability of workplace flexibility, however, has been mostly limited to highly skilled workers. This paper shows, using summary statistics from various surveys and results found in the literature, that a high degree of gender equality in the labor market, the necessary condition for firms to voluntarily start offering WLB enhancing programs, was already achieved by the mid-80s. In addition, to the extent that these programs facilitate women to balance work and family life, they induced highly skilled women to take on professional and managerial occupations, achieving even greater gender equality. Although the hours worked of highly skilled workers are still long in the US, with the added flexibility and a high degree of gender equality in the labor market, there is a sign of increasing gender equality even at home.