Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Is Part-Time Work Enough to Meet Family Needs?

Last week, this BBC article posed an interesting question: Is part-time work out of the home meeting family needs? Two-thousand and thirteen has seen an astonishing rise in the number of people attempting to juggle a family life while surviving on zero-hour contracts. Many of these contracts are suitable for single individuals, students, and those who have no impending need to meet financial demands. However, they are not suitable for families. As such, part-time working arrangements are coming under fire on a regular basis.

Why the Controversy?

One of the most controversial aspects of part-time employment figures is that they allow our government to claim it has reduced unemployment, when in reality it has done very little to help citizens achieve a good work-life balance. Working part-time often prices parents out of benefits and other forms of assistance, and subsequently places them in poverty. Like the BBC article claims, this isn't providing families with the security they need. Essentially, we are going backwards in terms of living standards, and that is not progressive for children who rely on their parents.

Approaching Work the French Way

I've recently been considering the possibility of a move to France. This is, in part, driven by my rising frustration with the British government. Most recently, a bill that proposes enforcing national service for all under-25s has riled me. On minimum wage, under 25s will be expected to provide a year's worth of full-time national service in the community, NHS, or within the armed forces—on minimum wage. As someone who has been taking an entrepreneurial approach to my working life since the age of 20, I find this quite offensive. In addition to this, enforcing a year's worth of national service with a consequence of being charged with a criminal offence if you fail to follow suit is the behaviour of autocratic despots, not democratic world leaders.

However, I digress. This has caused me to question where I am raising my children. Is Britain right for us? As a result, I have begun investigating the world of France. I have no doubt that I may be seeing our French cousins' way of life in a bit of a sepia-tinted manner. However, one thing that did stand out to me was the way a sense of entrepreneurship is promoted. Rather than feeling satisfied with zero hour contracts, hours stacking shelves, and proposals of enforced minimum wage lifestyles, they thrive on small businesses.

Why can’t parents around the UK do the same? Unfortunately, the world of freelancing is something British people either seem to stumble on or be introduced to. Recently, I introduced two friends and one blogger to my line of work, which they didn't know existed. I have been working from home for a few years, and I am now building my way up to working independently as a writer through my own website. The domain is purchased, I am just carefully crafting the content I need using the SEO skills I have acquired over the years.

There are many lines of work that can be accommodated by working at home. Almost anybody can get into writing. I also know many writers who sell through Etsy, run crafting and baking services part-time, sell photographs, and offer ironing services. In a British world of Tesco-powered living and a complete lack of respect for small industry, it is no wonder people do not feel that this approach is feasible.

Taking Responsibility for Working Life

The current economic climate is a bit crap, there is no denying it. In some areas, jobs appear to be plentiful. In others, they are sparse. Matters aren't helped by the government, who appear to claim they want more people back in work, yet make changes to childcare arrangements and tribunals that make working life a nightmare.

We have two options as parents: We can cry about this, and who would blame us? This is frustrating. Alternatively, we can take charge of what is available to us. Begin finding freelancing opportunities, craft a business from home, do what we can do manipulate the resources available. We have never lived in an age that is so full of opportunities; now is the time to make the most of that.

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