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Work and Family Balance: An Economic View - WP 03/26

Publication Details

  • Work and Family Balance: An Economic View
  • Published: Sep 2003
  • Status: Current
  • Authors: Fursman, Lindy; Jacobsen, Veronica; Varuhas, Jason
  • JEL Classification: D21; I31; J13; J33; J38; L29
  • Hard copy: Available in HTML and PDF formats only.

Work and Family Balance: An Economic View

New Zealand Treasury Working Paper 03/26

Published Sep 2003

Authors: Jason Varuhas, Lindy Fursman and Veronica Jacobsen


The way in which people balance their work and family responsibilities is becoming increasingly prominent on the policy agenda. This paper uses an economic framework to explore the rationale for government policies to improve work/family balance. It finds that strongest economic grounds for government intervention are the effects that maternal work may have on children. The evidence, however, is not strong, and whether maternal employment helps or harms children depends to a large part on the nature and quality of the childcare the children receive while the parents are at work. A number of policies could be used to promote work/family balance, including leave, childcare, changes to working hours, efforts to improve the family-friendliness of organisational cultures and tax/benefit policies. The most significant factor affecting work/family balance appears to be the organisational culture of the firm. In general, if organisational culture is not, in fact family-friendly, family-friendly measures will have little effect.


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Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 An economic view of work/family policy

  • 2.1 The family
  • 2.2  The firm
  • 2.3  Market failure

3 Family and employment trends

4 Work/family policies and their effects

  • 4.1 Childcare
  • 4.2 Parental leave
  • 4.3 Part-time work
  • 4.4 Flexible working hours
  • 4.5 Organisational culture

5 Conclusions


twp03-26.pdf (297 KB) pp. 1–28


This paper was prepared while Jason Varuhas was an intern at the Treasury. The authors are grateful to John Bryant, Sid Durbin, Michael Hampl and Marilyn Waring for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury. The paper is presented not as policy, but with a view to inform and stimulate wider debate.

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