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No conciliation? No fertility!

The subject of Fertility Day has raised many reactions in public opinion. It is an important subject which deserves serious reflection. We were working for over ten years on life-work balance policies with companies and public bodies and we want to give you our point of view on the subject, also supported by the European Commission's orientation, to show how this is not just a demographic problem and therefore not solvable with a simple campaign of diffusion and communication of pro-fertility statements.

 

Of course, falling birth rates are a problem that affects our country: fewer and fewer children are born in Italy - in the last 5 years there were 64,000 less than the previous five - and in 2015 the average was 1.35 children per woman while it should be about 2, in order to guarantee the generational replacement (http://www.alessandrorosina.it/rassegna-stampa/fertility-day-perche-grande-occasione-mancata). Leaving aside the economic and social consequences that this may entail (just think of the pension system), we want to focus our contribution on some of the main reasons we believe might explain this negative phenomenon.

 

In our country the entry of women into the labor market has led to a decrease in births. This is also due to the fact that Italy has a model of welfare state, which is typical of the Mediterranean country, where childcare services are not developed (just think of the problem of kindergartens), resource transfer is better preferred than the provision of services and the family is the first social shock absorber. We can say that women have always been an instrument of "informal social policy" in our country. So the mandatory choice for women was often (and still is): work or family.

 

In contrast, the North European countries have managed to get out of this contradiction and for them, in a few years, the relationship between mother and working-mother left the place to the concept of: working couple = couple with children. This happened simply because they allowed couples to organize their family life with work life, with concrete measures at the level of public services, tax policies (paying less taxes) and workplace solutions that, in addition to the above result, led the North European families to have in average more children than those in the Mediterranean countries.

 

As can be seen from this brief analysis, one of the reasons for the declining of birth rates in our country can be explained through its welfare state model, a conscious model which was perpetuated through the years. For this reason, as we said, fertility / birth is not only a demographic but social and economic problem, which can then be attempted to be solved through the action of the actors that today determine social policies, especially those of Second Welfare: enterprises (principally), trade unions and local authorities. It is especially the promotion in the company of life-work balance policies, the implementation of flexible hours, smart working, economic support for child care and education that can help couples to co-ordinate the role of a worker with that of a parent, thus promoting an increase in the female employment rate, which is correlated, as we have seen, in the Northern Europe countries, to an increase in births.

This mindset and being supported by our ten-year field experience, is also credited by the European Commission's opinion that in the roadmap on maternity of 2015 clearly states that in responding to the problems of birth and aging of the population, which are affecting in different ways all Europe, it is necessary, besides improving accessibility to services, also to innovate ways of working that can not be based only on the principle of the physical presence of the workers in the company.

(http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/2015_just_012_new_initiative_replacing_maternity_leave_directive_en.pdf).

 

In conclusion, we can state that the problem of the declining of birth rates is a complex problem and as such requires complex solutions that can start, as the European Union suggests, by increasing and improving childcare services, increasing investment in social policies, better tax policies that facilitate families with children and those that facilitate family-friendly and socially-aware companies. But what can certainly not be done today is to intervene on the mechanisms governing the organization and working relationships: from tax regulation to the promotion of new organizational solutions. From this point of view, it is worth mentioning how much the Legislator has promoted the company's welfare (with the last Stability Law), as well as the Law on Smart Working which we hope that it will soon end its legislative process.

Only by making affordable and sustainable the participation in the labor market as well as making it affordable and sustainable to have children will convince italian men and women to change their life choices.

 

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