FAMILY-RESPONSIBLE POLICIES AND THE FUTURE OF WORK: LESSON FROM A NIGERIAN INCIDENT

Modernity and its attendant transformation of societal organisation, including the work and family departments has challenged humanity in several ways, with far -reaching implications for the future of work. This is compounded by the failure of work organisations, especially in developing countries, to adapt to new developments or adopt humanistic strategies to support employees in the effective performance of their job demands, without inhibiting happiness and fulfilment in their family lives. With the preponderance of individualistic ideologies, undermining of the extended family support systems, and seeming ‘isolation’ of the nuclear family, everyday life has become even more challenging for dual-earner families – homes where both husband and wife engage in livelihood-enhancing socio-economic activities, such as formal employment. Couples in such situations, necessarily, need to combine their family roles, e.g. as father or mother, with the demands of their work place, thereby rendering them vulnerable to work-family conflict, among other stressors and strainers.

“The future of work” is right here! It is defined by Deloitte (2019) as: a result of many forces of change, affecting three deeply connected dimensions of an organisation: work, the workforce, and the workplace”. Demographic shifts in the workplace, work-family conflicts, and the associated significant shifts or changes in gender roles, and increasing pressure at the intersection of work and family, are some of the possible developments occasioned by the ‘future of work’. In view of the potential implications that these hold for the familial institution and her functions, it is important to reflect on, and initiate adaptive strategies in the interest of humanity, particularly women and children who seem to constitute a most vulnerable majority. The adoption of family-responsible policies (FRPs), also known as family-friendly policies (FFPs) constitute an effective strategy for containing such menace.

In her 2019 policy brief on “Family-Friendly Policies: Redesigning the Workplace of the Future”, UNICEF defined FRPs as those policies that help to balance and benefit both work and family life, that typically provide three types of essential resources needed by parents and caregivers of young children: time, finances and services (See: https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/UNICEF-policy-brief-family-friendly-policies-2019.pdf). This article is inspired by the recent death of a three-month-old baby, whose sad event reportedly occurred at a creche, while her mother was at her workplace, fending for family’s livelihood. Not only is it no crime for women to be engaged in socio-economic activities like taking up employment, but it has also actually become expedient in view of today’s socio-economic realities, particularly in a developing country like Nigeria. The contribution of women to development indices such as GDP, in which case they constitute over 50% of total employment figure in Nigeria, cannot be overemphasized! However, there is a major gap in the area of, and high imperative for family-responsible strategies aimed at making motherhood more convenient and the work place more humanistic for the woman.

One of the unfortunate events that dotted the very first week of March, 2022 in Nigeria, was the sore sad incidence of a mother whose 3-month-old child died at the creche. The baby was reported to be healthy and sound, at the time she was taken to the creche in Lagos. By the time the mother returned from work to pick up her child, however, she was reported to have found her baby dead! This sad and unimaginable event dominated public and social media discourse for the successive couple of days, with many people blaming the mother for leaving such a tender child at the creche. Lamenting the sad event in a tweeter post, a friend of the mother, @Lolo_cy, tweeted that

A friend dropped her 3 months old (sic) healthy baby at creche and she came back to pick his dead body. Nobody understands what happened. The teachers at the creche said they don’t know what happened. My God in heaven! I am beyond hurt….This woman just wanted to get back to her job and needed somewhere safe to keep her baby. She found a creche literally 2 mins from home….

Granted, death due to natural causes could happen at any time. However, the proximity of a baby’s creche to her mother’s place of work will afford easy visit and monitoring at reasonable intervals. Work organizations can provide baby-friendly centers, creches and nurseries for the babies of their employees, to enable closer observation and better prevention of sudden physiological or behavioral changes that can result in the loss of life. The unfortunate incidence in reference, and similar other eventualities, therefore, underscore the need for organizations to adopt ‘corporate family-responsible policies’ (CFRP), that makes parenting and other family duties convenient for their employees, without undermining optimum productivity. This is in addition to flexible or remote work schedules to allow for adequate nursing of the child, beyond the maternity leave. Such a measure will, no doubt, support quality societal regeneration without undermining optimum productivity in “the future of work” era.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *