There is no doubt about it, the era of shared responsibility has arrived. Its arrival is justified in view of the data revealed by various studies and statistics that show that women’s integration in the workplace has not gone hand in hand with men’s involvement in domestic chores and the care of family members.

To give a few examples, according to the statistics on maternity and paternity leave prepared by the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, in 2015 a total of 278,611 maternity benefit dossiers were processed, of which, only 5,233 (1.9%) were assigned to the father. That same year, a total of 41,703 women and 3,861 men started a period of leave for legal guardianship (care of children or family members), which reveals that it is mostly women (92.58%) who take advantage of this right. Similarly, according to the Working Population Survey, in 2016, of the total number of individuals who said they were in part-time employment due to taking care of children, or adults who were ill, had disabilities or were elderly, an overwhelming 96.04% were women.

These data reveal that despite the change in our society over the last few decades the distribution of domestic chores and family responsibility is not equal, with the consequent impact that this imbalance has on the situation of women and equality.

Encouraging shared responsibility is a task that affects all the parties involved and companies cannot shoulder the burden of implementing measures that boost shared responsibility alone. However, we should underscore the effort that many companies are making through awareness campaigns regarding the need for shared responsibility, the implementation of specific measures to encourage an equal take-up of the work/life balance measures available at companies, or granting permissions and work/life balance rights exclusively to male workers.

At this point I would like to refer to a news item that was published recently. For example, at the end of 2016 it came to light that Spain was losing its population at a rate of 72 persons a day, essentially because less children are being born. The National Employment Institute data reveal that in a few decades 30-35% of the population will be aged over 65.

Given the situation, should we accept the current degree of shared reasonability? Shouldn’t we think long and hard about the type of society we are creating and how to sustain it?

The policies and measures that can be adopted in all areas to encourage shared responsibility of domestic chores and care of family members are undoubtedly more than welcome. However, a broader view of the current and future problems of Spanish society is necessary precisely so that these policies and measures bear fruit and so that equality, as far as striking a work/life balance is concerned, eventually becomes a reality.

Eva Díez-Ordás

Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department