© 2015 London School of Economics and Political Science. The paper was stimulated by the relative absence of the working class from work-life debates. The common conclusion from work-life studies is that work-life imbalance is largely a middle-class problem. It is argued here that this classed assertion is a direct outcome of a particular and narrow interpretation of work-life imbalance in which time is seen to be the major cause of difficulty. Labour market time, and too much of it, dominates the conceptualization of work-life and its measurement too. This heavy focus on too much labour market time has rendered largely invisible from dominant work-life discourses the types of imbalance that are more likely to impact the working class. The paper's analysis of large UK data-sets demonstrates a reduction in hours worked by working-class men, more part-time employment in working-class occupations, and a substantial growth in levels of reported financial insecurity amongst the working classes after the 2008-9 recession. It shows too that economic-based work-life imbalance is associated with lower levels of life satisfaction than is temporal imbalance. The paper concludes that the dominant conceptualization of work-life disregards the major work-life challenge experienced by the working class: economic precarity. The work-life balance debate needs to more fully incorporate economic-based work-life imbalance if it is to better represent class inequalities.
Warren, T. (2015). Work-life balance/imbalance: The dominance of the middle class and the neglect of the working class. British Journal of Sociology, 66(4), 691-717. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12160