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Kiwis have their say on work-life balance

Mon, 12 July 2004

Kiwis have their say on work-life balance

Kiwis want balanced lives, according to a report released today. The government considers how it might help achieve this.

Most Kiwis like the idea, but achieving a balanced life isn't always easy, according to a report released today by Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson.

The report, Achieving Balanced Lives and Employment - what New Zealanders are saying about work-life balance, summarises the consultations that a Work-Life Balance Project team recently completed. The report shows that many people face significant barriers to achieving a desired work-life balance.

"We set up the project a year ago in recognition that striking this kind of balance is a significant concern for many New Zealanders. We wanted the project to promote policies and practices to help people to achieve a better work-life balance.

"We want New Zealand to be a great place to live and work. This means people effectively using their energy and skills to participate in paid work, society and the economy. Work-life balance ideally means that employment relationships are conducted in good faith, with employers and employees able to talk constructively about these issues.

"We recognise that it is up to each person to define the 'right' balance for them, and in many cases, people will be able to successfully arrange this for themselves. However, in other cases, the government may have a role to play to help achieve this balance.

"I think government can play an important role in helping people overcome the barriers to achieving balanced lives. It can also lead by example, by addressing work-life balance issues for its own employees. However, achieving balanced lives for everyone will also require contributions from the general public, as individuals, members of families and communities, or as employees or employers," Ruth Dyson said.

The main barriers preventing people from achieving work-life balance are: · Lack of access to quality, affordable childcare to suit working parents · Difficulty for those on low hourly wage rates, who need to work long hours to earn enough income to support their families · Undervaluing of caring and voluntary work · Long hours and physically or mentally intensive work, without sufficient recovery time · "Precarious" employment arrangements · Lack of workplace policies and unsupportive workplace cultures · Pressures on small employers to "do everything" in the business, which impacts on their own work-life balance, and their ability to think about work-life balance for staff · The need for government to lead by example.

A number of recently-announced policy changes, such as the Working for Families package, will help overcome some of these barriers. The government is currently considering what else should be done and how to respond to the report.

"The government's response should be seen as a first step towards achieving the vision of New Zealand being a great place to live and work," said Ruth Dyson.

The report can be downloaded from the Work-Life Balance Project website (www.worklife.govt.nz). Hard copies are available by emailing worklife@dol.govt.nz,

ENDS


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