Reconciling work and family life for French mothers in the Sarkozy era

Jan Windebank (Department of French, Centre for Gender Studies in Europe, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 31 August 2012



The purpose of this paper is to analyse work‐family reconciliation policy during the Sarkozy presidency in France, assessing the extent to which Sarkozy's injunction on the French to “work more to earn more” has provided a new frame for policy in this area.


The paper analyses the policy debates and initiatives concerning work‐family reconciliation in France since 2007 and seeks to identify the frames of reference concerning the problems of and solutions to combining paid work and parenthood which have structured this policy process.


The change in employment policy away from work‐sharing and towards activation of previously economically‐inactive groups has influenced work‐family reconciliation policy in that both incentive measures (creation of more collective and subsidised childcare places) and coercive measures (reduction of the length of parental leave benefits) have been put in place or debated in order to increase the number of mothers of young children in the labour market. Feminist discourse has been used to justify proposals for the reduction in length of paid parental leaves representing an example of “triangulation” in which right‐wing governments invoke left‐wing ideology to defend policy.

Research limitations/implications

The present analysis emphasises the importance of incorporating the influence of the frames of reference which inform employment and poverty‐reduction policy into explaining approaches to work‐family reconciliation policy in France.


This article represents the first examination of work‐family reconciliation policy in France under President Sarkozy and emphasises the importance of incorporating employment‐related frames of reference in explaining work‐family reconciliation policy in the country.



Windebank, J. (2012), "Reconciling work and family life for French mothers in the Sarkozy era", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 32 No. 9/10, pp. 576-588.

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