Work-Life Conflict and Social Inequality in Western Europe
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- McGinnity, F. & Calvert, E. Soc Indic Res (2009) 93: 489. doi:10.1007/s11205-008-9433-2
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Recent debates on time-use suggest that there is an inverse relationship between time poverty and income poverty (Aguiar and Hurst in Q J Econ C(3):969–1006, 2007), with Hammermesh and Lee (Rev Econ Stat 89(2):374–383, 2007) suggesting much time poverty is ‘yuppie kvetch’ or ‘complaining’. Gershuny (Soc Res Int Q Soc Sci 72(2):287–314, 2005) argues that busyness is the ‘badge of honour’: being busy is now a positive, privileged position and it is high status people who work long hours and feel busy. Is this also true of work-life conflict? This paper explores the relationship between work-life tension and social inequality, as measured by social class, drawing on evidence from the European Social Survey. To what extent is work-life conflict a problem of the (comparatively) rich and privileged professional/managerial classes, and is this true across European countries? The countries selected offer a range of institutional and policy configurations to maximise variation. Using regression modelling of an index of subjective work-life conflict, we find that in all the countries under study, work-life conflict is higher among professionals than non-professionals. Part 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. We consider other explanations of why professionals report higher work-life conflict and the implications of our findings for debates on social inequality.