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Welcome back to Men in Care. We're excited to present you with the second edition of our newsletter, filled with exciting project updates, an interview from one of our associated organisations and an in-depth article looking at the steps towards caring masculinities in MiC countries..

1. What is Men in Care?
2. Covid-19, care and work-life balance in participant countries
3. Our national reports are here

4. Men in Care progress
5. Our interview 
6. In Depth: Men need to be with families too: progress towards caring masculinities in MiC countries

What is Men in Care?
The European MiC project aims to improve organisational conditions for men taking on caring roles. Its main focus is organisational players, structures and cultures that could enable men to do what they want - be more involved in caring roles - but often fail to do so. A network of companies, social partners, researchers and organisations will be created to improve work-life balance for men and women. 

Work-Life-Balance and Caring Masculinities

MiC will identify and share best practice models for achieving a high level of work and life balance to enable both men and women to take on caring roles - for their family members, for themselves and for people in their near social environment such as friends and colleagues.

Covid-19, care and work-life balance in participant countries 
A representative study, conducted in April 2020 with more than 500 parents of children under 15 years showed that Austrian families (especially women) are heavily burdened by the corona crisis (SORA on behalf of the Momentum Institute, 2020). Differences in the use of home office by educational level are not surprising: 67% of academics  vs. only 11% of those with lowest level of education.The corona crisis has not led to an equal distribution of care work, but it has contributed to narrowing the gender gap: before the lockdown, 31% of women and 2% of men in dual-earner households were the main responsible person for unpaid care-work, while during lockdown those rates increased especially for men (42% of women vs 23% of men).
The pandemic exacerbated gender inequalities and exposed the precariousness of women. The vast majority of healthcare workers and personal care workers in health services in the EU arewomen, at 76 % and 86 %, respectively (EIGE stats). In Germany, the Federal Cabinet announced EUR 1 billion in investment in ECEC services for 2020 and 2021, and further funds, amounting to EUR 1.5 billion, have been earmarked for the expansion of all-day care in schools for grades 1 to 4 (BMFSFJ, 2020). In Germany as across the EU, women’s organisations are lobbying for greater acknowledgement and appreciation of unpaid work by women, for gender-sensitive recovery efforts and further investment in the care economy, development of care services, greater data collection on unpaid care and its inclusion in GDP calculations, and the inclusion of gender impact assessments and gender budgeting principles in all funds spent in the framework of the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (EWL, 2020)
Iceland took a “softer” approach to COVID-19 than many other European countries. Neither preschools nor primary schools were closed so the effects on family life were not as serious as in many other countries. A recent survey showed that 35% of women and 22% of men experienced increased work pressure during the pandemic but also that fathers had increased their participation in childcare and domestic work. A governmental bill has been introduced in the Icelandic parliament, extending parental leave from 10 to 12 months, and dividing it between parents so that each is entitled to 6 months, but one month is transferable.
In Norway schools and kindergartens were closed for 6 weeks, on March 12, 2020. Parents who had to care for their children got extended rights to receive full pay for care for children. A Norwegian study showed that care obligations for both men and women increased, but women in general reported a slightly higher number of hours spent caring for children than men.Every year, the trade union YS conducts a survey among 3,000 employees nationally, which provides a picture of the employees' situation. Gender equality and work-family balance are included in the questions. In 2020, the survey was conducted in March and April, from the time of the first descent (Ingelsrud, Ellingsen and Steen, 2020). 41 percent reported that as a consequence of the corona outbreak, they had been required to work from home. The study shows that the corona situation has led to a more equal division of care for children and who is at home with a sick child. 11% of employees reported that they took leave to be at home with the children when schools and kindergartens closed. The survey involved as many fathers as mothers. One gender difference, however, was that several fathers reported that the leave was unpaid, which is related to the fact that more fathers work in the private sector.
In Poland, the COVID pandemic brought significant changes in the organisation of work and balancing it with private lives. The lockdown resulted in closure of schools and care institutions on 16th of March – since then the schools were functioning online a short period of openness in September/October 2020. Preschools and nurseries continue to function since May 2020. Parents of children until age of 8 are entitled to paid care leave, if care facility is closed. According to the MIC study in Polish corporations, parents’ overburden with providing care for children or/and supporting them in education has been reported to have impact on employees’ possibilities to perform work duties. This situation has resulted in changing patterns of work-life balance, having also some positive impacts, and encouraging companies to introduce solutions to support employees, in particular flexible work schedule.  
In Slovenia kindergartens and schools closed for 2 months across the country during the first lockdown on March 16, 2020. Parents who stayed at home due to childcare were entitled to 50% compensation from their salary or in case of minimum wage up to at least 70% of it. Where both (or single) parents were employed in critical occupations, including service members, the state offered organized childcare at home for children up to 5th grade of elementary school. According to Aragon, which conducted a survey in late March and early April, just under a third of respondents went to work as usual, just under a third of respondents worked from home, and 16 percent were at home waiting for work. The study also revealed that men were more likely to go to work as usual compared to women, while women were more likely than men to stay at home for childcare.
Spain was under the first alarm state since March 14th to June 21st, 2020 due to the pandemics. During this period, schools were closed and many men and women worked from home. This has been an ambivalent experience for many families. Results from a survey, run between May 5th and May 19th during easing of the lockdown conditions in Spain, reveal that fathers slightly increased their share of childcare, even though mothers did most. Many companies have now established new policies on telework and in October remote work was regulated by the 28/2020 Act. Written agreements must be signed between companies and employees who work remotely more than 30% of working time. In 2020, also, men who had a child enjoyed 12 weeks of paternity leave, which will be extended to 16 (same as maternity leave) in 2021 (Act 06/2019).

Our national reports are here

We are very happy to share the release of our national benchmarking reports, which include context analyses of the seven participant countries as well as organisational analyses for five of them.

Organisational analyses focus on best practices that can foster caring masculinities. Our qualitative researchers have done around 150 interviews within 18 organisations/companies in five countries.

Many different topics have emerged such as the flexibility stigma, organisational culture, partners’ negotiation, co-workers’ support, etc. Below we focus on four of these topics, as expressed by male caregivers themselves: the benefits of spending time with children during parental leave, the stand-by attitude at home, the obstacles of managerial jobs for fathering and the importance of supervisors' support.

The link between time offered by parental leave and quality of relations through involved fathering

“With the older kid it was totally important, because when the younger one also came he oriented himself more towards me anyway, as his mom had less time for him. But that was great, because I was on parental leave for a while and he already knew that I could do the same. And with the younger one it was also good, so the relationship with the children has completely ... not improved, it was simply a completely different quality. (...) We did routine things together, like the children went to bed with me. That falling asleep is also possible with dad, even for a very small child. That they sometimes came to me at night and not to their mom. And that they let mommy sleep and woke me up when they needed something. Funnily enough, I never woke up when they were yelling mommy. Only when they called daddy.” (Carer 5, ResearchSchool, AT)
Contrast: Men in a stand-by position at home

"I try a lot to lend a hand. My wife has to be present the whole day, and she has to take care of him (the son). So I try... that, when I come home, I play directly with the little one. I think this can be arranged relatively well (...) Even when I was relatively busy, I could still help." (Carer 1, ResearchSchool, AT)

Limits of reconciliation between care & career

In general, AutoCom is "very good for the family. Although, at my former (higher) position, it is illusory. The crucial point, when I said, now it's over, was that I should please fly to India for a five hour meeting. That also explains a little bit strikingly, why it can't work with a family. In the end I said, I am no longer willing to pay that price. So I just told myself, you have to choose what you want to leave behind, and marriage and my children are just not that. I also have friends and acquaintances around me who have stayed on the career line, whose marriages are also breaking up now. (...) Money isn't worth it (...) health even less so." (Carer 2, AutoCom, AT)
Support of superiors – leaders as gatekeepers of work-life balance

"Now that I have children of my own, I realise just how socially minded the company is in terms of work and family. I have the support of my superiors, when the kids are ill, I can probably be relatively flexible, stay at home or work from home". (Carer 3, AutoCom, AT)

"When I tell my current boss 'I have to pick up the children now' - even if we have a huge emergency - he knows exactly that I have to do it, I'm not saying this for fun. And if I say 'I'll be back', then that's the deal we have anyway. (...) It also helps a lot that I know I can always take the children to the office. I don't have anyone to get upset about children crying or screaming, at least on the first day". (Carer 5, ResearchSchool, AT)
Read our national benchmarking reports for more information.

Men in Care progress

MiC during 2020: connected apart
The pandemic and national lockdowns in 2020 found most of our team carrying out interviews to agents involved in promoting caring masculinities in workplaces: managers, labour market experts, trade union representatives and of course men with care responsibilities (and their partners). We have gathered experiences and information from more than 150 agents in 18 organizations, including private companies and public bodies. By using this 360-degee-approach (i.e. different perspectives are taken into account) we obtain more complete information about which best practices really work for companies, employees and also their families. Read more on caregivers’ experiences here.

The unpredictable event we are all experiencing was considered the right moment to carry out a first SWOT analysis about the functioning of our team, during one of our international meetings, which was held online instead of in Oslo as planned. Covid-19 was clearly identified as our main threat. As our partner Danel from Reform (Norway) points out “the pandemic has drastically changed the way we work in Reform. We are now based in our home, where we work, live and sleep”. 

(Image: MiC partners at the online partner meeting in Autumn 2020)
The pandemics only confirms the importance of WLB for women and men, companies and the society” believes our partner Ziva from the Peace Institute (Slovenia).  During these months we have continued trying to gather experiences and reflections from organizations and companies on the new challenges and their solutions, as in this event organized by our Polish partners.

We all agree that we miss the emotional dimension of communication that only emerges in face-to-face encounters: it is a long time already since we last offered someone ‘let’s have a coffee together and discuss it’. Every cloud has a silver lining, however (or at least that’s what we try to think): for example, our Reform partners have developed a quite advanced technical platform for live broadcasts and national/international meetings “which actually broadens our scope” as Danel explains. Also, as one of our interviewees (expert in a graduate school) points out “presenteism has been of high importance in this area, and maybe the Coronavirus situation has changed something”.

Only time will tell what the new balance is between remote and office work, between efficiency and human touch.
So what's next?
In 2021, we will be carrying out (online and offline) trainings for managers, male caregivers and trade union representatives on how to enable and foster caring masculinities within organizations in Austria, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Germany and Spain. Want your company to participate? Get in touch with our national contacts.

Our interview:  Dr. in Ute Sonnleitner, from “ÖGB-Steinmark” (Austrian Federation of Trade Unions, Styria)
In this issue we interview one member of our associated organization “ÖGB-Steinmark” (Austrian Federation of Trade Unions, Styria). She speaks to us about how Covid-19 is impacting care and work-life balance issues in Austria. Ute studied history and archaeology in Graz, finishing a dissertation on “Resistance against Austrofascism in Styria 1933-1938” in 2009. She has been a researcher and lecturer at the Department of History/Contemporary History (Karl-Franzens-University Graz). As the mother of a two-year old boy herself, she is particularly interested in questions of care.

Read the full interview.

In Depth: Men need to be with families too: progress towards caring masculinities in MiC countries.
Many men do not like to devote their lives only to careers and work, and to pay the price of absence from their families and social environments (Scambor, Wojnicka, & Bergmann, 2012). In all MiC participant countries, men are more affected by overwork (desired work hours being lower than real work hours) than women, with gender differences especially remarkable in Austria and Germany (Eurofound, European Working Conditions Survey, 2015). The demand for a shift in men’s access to work-life balance resources is expressed timidly yet, given the strongly rooted ‘male breadwinner/female caretaker’ model, as well as other structural economic factors.

Read the whole article.

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Men in Care project 2021
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The Men in Care project has received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation "EaSI" (2014-2020).
The information contained in this publication does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission.