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63rd Session CSW - Side Event on “The use of new technologies for the promotion of work-life balance and the advancement of family policies for the social inclusion of women and men”



63rd Session CSW - Side Event on “The use of new technologies for the promotion of work-life balance and the advancement of family policies for the social inclusion of women and men”

Statement delivered by the Minister for Family and Disabilities, MP Mr. Lorenzo Fontana, at the Side Event on “The use of new technologies for the promotion of work-life balance and the advancement of family policies for the social inclusion of women and men” ---

Distinguished colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to participate, as Minister for Families and Disability, in the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the UN and discuss with you an issue to which the Italian Government attaches great importance, that is, the work-life balance.

Today’s Side Event stems from the need to discuss the importance of digital technologies used in work environments and the positive impact they have on the lives of men and women in the workforce.

I would thus like to speak on behalf of all the employed – men and women – who every day strive to best meet their commitments in the professional, personal and family life, which is a very hard juggling act.

I am sure that also useful, in this context, will be our sharing of good practices regarding the promotion and support for family policies through the use of digital technologies.

I believe just as relevant - our discussion in greater detail of innovative initiatives, which, thanks to the introduction of new technologies, favor a better work-life balance for families, at the workplace and more leisure time to cultivate one’s interests and passions. Work-life balance is indeed a significant element in the innovation of social and cultural models, because it offers useful tools that enable each individual to best live the multiple roles he or she has in society.

Work-life balance is, no doubt, an important instrument of economic, professional and social empowerment for women, but to see its value only in this sense would be reductive. Its importance is such that is must be placed into a broader context, that of the economy and the development of Countries.

Work-life policies involve women and men, employers and employees; they touch our private as well as public, political and social lives with a clear bearing on the distribution of the workload within families, on the organization of work, as well as on the coordination of services of public interest.

At the European level, the past decade has seen the issue of work-life balance take on a central role as actions were launched to guarantee the equal distribution of the family workload, to introduce new models of organization of work, and especially to enable women, mothers, and employees to access and stay in the workforce.

Work-life policies indeed are closely tied to the goal of increasing women’s participation in the job market and thus bridge the existing employment gap between men and women.

Dear colleagues,

A modern policy reconciling professional and family life should contribute to improving the employment rate and, at the same time, reduce poverty and social exclusion. I believe it essential to implement every innovative initiative with digital technologies to improve access to services and ensure that they can be used by all, men and women.

I also firmly believe that these policies should and can viably combat the current demographic crisis affecting the European continent, and in part the American continent too – a fall in demographics that, in part, is the result of men and women’s objective difficulties in reconciling all of the main aspects of their lives.

In this context, in implementation of the strategic commitment to gender parity of 2016-2019 of the European Commission and Target N. 5 of the UN SDGs dedicated to gender equality, a resolution was approved in 2016 by the European Parliament, which, in recognizing the need to reconcile the professional, private and family life as a fundamental right of all, requires EU Member States to promote, both in the public and private sectors, models of corporate welfare that respect the right to work-life balance.

Following international and European indicators, the Italian Government with its 2019 budget law has allocated additional financial resources, approximately 104 million euros, for family policies, including those that support the priorities and fundamental needs of parenthood and births.

In particular, with said budget law, working mothers are given greater flexibility in the use of their maternity leave; whereas an increase to 5 days was given to mandatory paternal leave that working fathers can use upon the birth of their child.

These measures are flanked by financial contributions covering the cost of nursery schools (1,500 euros a year) and the birth of a family’s first child (800 euros). These are structural contributions that do not take into account families’ income and are not lumped together with their overall income.

In addition, in the administrative and organizational spheres, Italy has introduced experimentally, in both the public and private sectors, flexible forms of work, such as telecommuting and “smart work” that, thanks to the use of laptops, tablets, smartphones and skype, help to fulfill organizational needs and individual well-being, with the effect of containing management costs and improving services.

In this regard, we have also introduced a specific provision, also included in the 2019 budget law that I, myself, advocated as Minister for Disabilities, that guarantees working parents with children with disabilities that need permanent, continuous and all-around assistance, priority entitlement to the so-called flexible work.

Corporate well-being policies are essential to assessing the extent to which an organization is attentive to the needs for work-life balance of their employees. In this perspective, the sharing of good practices that already occurs between our company managers and public administration, through the introduction and use of technologies supporting new forms of flexible work, can only but promote the country’s economic growth and increase the well-being of women, men, and their families. It’s about rethinking a different approach to carrying out one’s work, removing the constraints and inadequate models tied to old, obsolete concepts, also in view of work and family well-being that promotes the human component and sustains the birth rate.

For these reasons, I set up an institutional Table on work-life balance policies, which thanks to the participation of over 60 businesses, will enable the exchange of experience and good practices on these issues. Among the various forms of flexible work proposed by businesses to the Table, many are based on the use of innovative technologies and entail the use of alternative workplaces and co-working spaces; the ability to follow professional training via e-learning from home during work hours; as well as online services for purchases and facilitating administrative formalities also through the use of a company concierge. The Table’s purpose is to provide companies with new, additional opportunities to bolster the professional welfare of their employees and families. The Italian Government, in cooperation with businesses, plans to launch soon a public tender – for the total amount of 80 million euros circa – that will go to fund projects promoting new and effective action to improve corporate well-being.

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Italy will continue in its efforts to support all o f the innovative and technological processes favoring the reconciliation between professional and personal lives, with the hope of reaching gender parity; ensuring higher women’s employment; increasing the birth rate; and adequately supporting families in raising their children.

Thank you and I wish you success in your work.