Editor's view - Rethinking the balance

This month's Working Mum column gives a real insight into the continuing problems that parents face in trying to arrange childcare - in this instance, out-of-school provision for her elder daughter who starts reception next term.

Immediately apparent are the ongoing tensions between the well-being of the child - some local schools offer no or limited out-of-school care on ideological grounds - the right of parents to work and employer demands on their staff.

Parents can only do so much in resolving these tensions, and the same goes for schools, and indeed policymakers. It is the world of work surely that needs radical change.

It is no surprise then that Carlos Slim's call for a three-day week for all has attracted so much debate. Once the world's richest man, the 74-year-old Mexican magnate argued at a business conference in Paraguay that everyone should work three 11-hour days a week up to the age of 70 or 75, so giving us more time to spend with our families.

Obviously, there are huge problems with the proposals, but it is worth pondering the potential benefits that would come from an across-the-board change. Working mothers would be freed from the expectation of having to reduce their hours and be able to pursue their careers more easily. Working fathers would escape the expectation of having to work ever longer hours. And it would end current tensions between 'flexible-working' and full-time staff.

Could it ever happen? Maybe; never say never. Part of Slim's thinking stems from the swelling numbers of unemployed young people and old people too poor to retire. Maybe by revolutionising their working life, we can find a way to also benefit families still struggling with childcare and their work/life balance.

Liz Roberts is away

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