Firstly let us wish all our followers a Happy New Year and our best wishes for 2014. We really appreciate the interest you have shown in our campaign, and the continued support during the past almost 2 years.
The elephant in the room – the question on everyone’s mind: What about the European Year? Let me come back to this a little further down.
We spent last year preparing a fantastic programme for you for 2014. As you may know from our Roadmap, we will be organising events, bringing people together and formulate joint ideas, recommendations and policies to make it easier to reconcile work and family responsibilities.
So what will we do? And how can you get involved? We have a number of great events in store:
We are organising under the auspices of the Greek Presidency a conference in Athens on the 29th April entitled “Families in the crisis”. We feel it is very important to show our solidarity with the countries under very strict austerity regimes and also look at how families can survive and maintain a relatively good quality of life even in very difficult economic and financial situation. The conference will focus on austerity measures and cuts to social services, women’s participation on the labour market, and how reconciliation can work under economic duress. Other topics addressed will be childcare, family solidarity in times of crisis and the outlook for the young people and their future families.
You may also want to put the 8-9th September in your calendar, as this will be the date for our European Employers’ Reconciliation Forum. We believe that this may even be the first of its kind at EU level, and we are bringing together employers from the private, public and third sectors to discuss family friendly workplace measures for offering a better work – life balance for their employees. It will be a mix of global and local employers, large and small companies, with a special focus on retail, healthcare and other sectors that are not lending themselves easily for tele-working or other standard measures. The conference will take place in Helsinki, Finland, endorsed by the Finnish Ministry of Social Welfare, and perhaps even an official opening from the President of Finland.
The third main event of the year will be our conference with the Italian Presidency, most likely around November, probably in Milan. The intention is to look at the economic and financial realities, and see how we can spend less, but better for public measures to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life. Social investment, social innovation will form the backbone of a very exciting event.
As 2014 is also the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family of the United Nations, and we are pleased to let you know that we have already contributed to the Landmark publication which contains over 300 articles from around the world on the three main topics of the UN year: family poverty, work and family life balance and extended families. We are honoured having been asked to write the lead article for the Work-Family life balance section. This publication will be available online in February, and the printed books will be published for the 15th May and launched in New York for the official ceremony of the Anniversary. We expect a number of events to take place around the world marking the 20th Anniversary of the International Year.
We also foresee a hearing and an own-initiative opinion at the European Economic and Social Committee to complete our policy package.
In addition we are calling on our long-term supporters within, and outside the 2014 Alliance to come and join us for 2 meetings during the year to bring their knowledge and expertise and enrich the chapters of what will be the final product, namely the European Reconciliation Package.
As you may see from the Events section on this Blog, there will be a number of other events also taking place around Europe on work-life balance, as it is more and more recognized of an issue of great importance, short, mid and long-term.
Therefore let me extend this invitation to you to follow our activities, and there are a number of ways to get involved throughout the year, which can happen in different forms, through emails, participation at events, written contributions. You may want to launch your own survey among your contacts and members as to what would make a real change in the lives of families to enable them to find the right work-life balance that works for them. We are always happy to hear from you.
Now briefly back to the elephant: so as matters stand, there isn’t a European Year. Any. None. Now you may ask why didn’t the European Commission take our proposal on board, backed by the majority of MEPs and the Trio Presidency behind us? We don’t know the answer to this question. You can read here the most recent answer by the team of President Barroso, and if you have an opinion on it, don’t hesitate to let us know.
We are now moving on and focusing on delivering events and activities to the highest standard.
As you may have noticed, we adapted the name of our campaign and our logo, and I am happy to officially launch the 2014 Year of Reconciling Work and Family Life in Europe, and you are all invited to join us making a real change!