Irish find work-life balance no hassle

A new EU-wide survey reveals that after the Finns and the Dutch, the Irish find it easiest to combine work and family life.

Almost six out of 10 (59 per cent ) say it is very or fairly easy to combine the two.

At the other end of the scale, less than one-fifth of Hungarians find it easy to juggle work and family commitments.

For Irish people, the most practical and realistic way to combine work with childcare is for one parent to work full-time with the other working part-time.

However only 13 per cent would be in favour of both parents working full-time, according to the survey.

This option is far more popular in almost all other EU countries.

The survey also asked for views on different childcare arrangements for pre-school children.

Two-thirds of Irish people think a crèche is a good option, half think that pre-school children could be looked after by their mother, and 38 per cent think they could be looked after by grandparents or other relatives.These results are in line with EU averages.

Around a quarter of Irish people would choose a certified childminder in a private home (23 per cent ) or a childminder or au pair in their own house (28 per cent ) the survey shows.

It also shows that the three main difficulties faced by Irish families are the high costs of housing and raising children and the burden of caring for ageing parents or relatives.

After the Luxembourgish and the Danes, the Irish are among the most satisfied with public support for families with children and for people caring for dependent older relatives.

Two-thirds say that they are happy with the Government's support for families with children (compared to 12 per cent of Portuguese and 19 per cent of Spanish people who are happy with their governments' policies to support families with children ).

Forty-seven per cent are happy with the Government's policy to support those who look after older relatives (compared to just nine per cent of Estonian and Portuguese respondents ).

Nevertheless, the survey found that the Irish - like all Europeans - would not say no more help.

Nine out of 10 think that the Government should prioritise increased tax advantages for families with children, access to more flexible childcare arrangements and the introduction of paid leave to care for dependent elderly parents and relatives.

Of those surveyed, 87 per cent would like to see an increase in child allowances and 92 per cent would like easier access to part-time work.

These findings were mirrored in all EU countries.

The survey showed that 84 per cent of Irish people would like to see the Government prioritising longer paid parental leave although this is less of a priority for the Dutch, the Danes and the Swedes.

Eighty-four per cent are in favour of incentives for fathers to take parental leave but this is less important for Austrians, Hungarians, and Romanians.

The survey also measured respondents' views for policy options to target an ageing population.

Irish people were some of the most enthusiastic of all EU citizens about policy options such as encouraging people to lead healthy lifestyles, allowing older people to combine paid employment with a pension, easier access to part-time work for older employees, public spending on support services that allow older people to stay in their homes for longer and investment in more accessible public transport.

The findings are based on a Eurobarometer survey conducted on behalf of the European Commission.

More than 27,000 people were interviewed in the 27 EU member states. One thousand and one Irish citizens were interviewed by telephone by Gallup-UK between September 10 and 14, 2008.

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