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Fairer Distribution of Private Care of Children and Relatives

Researchers of the Deutsches Jugendinstitut (DJI – German Youth Institute) and the University of Bremen recommend a general entitlement to a nine-year career break in order to care for children, the elderly, or to pursue further education and self-care.

Within the framework of a research project, they have developed a social policy model. According to the proposal of the interdisciplinary team from the legal and social sciences, the so-called Option Times (in German: Optionszeiten) should be financed partly by companies, partly by the government, and partly by the workers themselves.

The coronavirus crisis is drawing attention to something that has long received too little attention in politics and society: professional and non-professional care work. This includes child care, domestic work, and the care of sick and elderly relatives. In Germany, these care tasks are still predominantly performed by women – in private, completely unpaid. Many negative consequences are the result: Women reducing their paid employment have disadvantages on the labor market and in their professional development as well as lower wages and less social security in old age. In addition, fathers want more time with their families, while mothers are increasingly struggling with time conflicts due to the multitude of tasks. A new social policy model could allow women and men to care for others next to their paid employment and this care work to be more equally distributed on the shoulders of both genders. The model was developed by scientists of the Deutsches Jugendinstitut (DJI) and the University of Bremen in a research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS).

“Adapting Modern Career Paths”

The Option Times model envisages that in principle all people have a time budget of about nine years at their disposal during their working lives. This will enable them to interrupt or reduce their paid employment to pursue socially relevant activities while maintaining financial security during this time. At its core is the aim to provide care for children, the elderly, and the sick, whereby these need not be related to the person providing care. The time budget was calculated on the basis of empirical data on the time spent and time required for individual activities. According to the proposal of the interdisciplinary team from the legal and social sciences, the Option Times should be financed partly by companies, partly by the government, and partly by the workers themselves. A parliament-controlled body is to manage the system.
“Labour, social and tax law, which are currently based on the three successive development phases of education, work, and retirement, must be adapted to modern career paths that require continuous further qualification,” demands the lawyer and political researcher Professor Ulrich Mückenberger. He heads the research project at the University of Bremen. The Option Times model therefore not only takes care work into account, but also phases of further education and personal self-care.

“The Option Times model means a departure from the ‘typical’ male career path with continuous full-time work, where interruptions and part-time work constitute a deviation,” explains Dr. Karin Jurczyk, who headed the research project “Self-Determined Option Times in the Course of Employment” at the DJI and for many years also headed the DJI family department. Instead, “breathing life courses”, i.e. flexible career paths, should be made possible so that both genders can meet the increasing need for care of an ageing society. The Option Times model must be accompanied by the expansion of good infrastructure for care and childcare as well as better payment for social professions, emphasizes Jurczyk: “For it is not a question of shifting care work back into the hands of families, but rather of productive interaction between the government, the economy, and the community”.

From the Option Times Model Idea to the Research Project

The concept of the Option Times model was first introduced to a broader public with the Seventh Family Report, which was published in 2006 under the title “Families between flexibility and dependability”. Karin Jurczyk put the concept forward there. She was a member of the expert committee commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs to write the report at the time. Later, Jurczyk developed the concept further together with Ulrich Mückenberger. The 2015 Congress of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zeitpolitik, of which Mückenberger is a co-founder, was central to this process. Afterwards, the two researchers worked out the details of the concept within the framework of the research project “Self-Determined Option Times in the Course of Employment”. This project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs from April 2017 to October 2018 as part of the Fördernetzwerk interdisziplinäre Sozialpolitikforschung – FIS (Support Network Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research).

Further Information:

www.dji.de/Optionszeiten   (in German only)
www.dji.de/themen/familie   (in German only)

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Mückenberger (emeritus)
Centre of European Law and Politics (ZERP)
University of Bremen
Phone: +49-421-218-66218
Email: mueckenbprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de   

Dr. Karin Jurczyk
Until End of 2019 Head of the Department Family, DJI
Management Board of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zeitpolitik (DGfZP)
Phone: +49-89-62021446
Email: kajurczykprotect me ?!posteoprotect me ?!.de

Uta Hofele
Media and Communication
Deutsches Jugendinstitut (DJI)
Email: hofele@dji.de

Man and woman are carrying a child on their back and laugh
Women and men alike are supposed to be able to care for their children next to their paid employment. A new social policy model intends to make this possible.