No doubt, living standards have been improved in majority of the countries for example Australia which is consistently making the cities sustainable and productive. However, sustainability and productivity mostly comes at the cost of social disconnect. Relationships are very important for the wellbeing of humans and without relationships man is captured by isolation and loneliness that can badly impact a person’s health and productivity at work. In Australia, there is an increase in loneliness and isolation. It has been observed that interactions with neighbours and friendship trends have been badly affected within the last 20 years or so (Kelly 2012). With the evolution of work culture and dynamics of a family life, these problems can future aggravate. Moreover, nature of jobs is modern era of technological advancement and fast paced evolution in businesses has changed. It is becoming increasingly difficult for a common man or woman to find a balance between him/her work and family needs.
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In bigger countries having a large area, cities face the problem of long travel distance from family to the workplace. This results in less social interaction and family time. Let us take the example of Australia, where statistics of ‘Work Life Index” point towards negative work and family balance if there travel time is longer between the home and office. This clearly shows a connection between the social aspects and travel time of the workers. Poor urban transportation facilities can also be cause of wastage of time commuting to and from workplace. Shorter distances would definitely result in better social interaction and spending more time with the family. (Kelly 2012; Pocock, Skinner, and Williams 2007)
‘People living on their own’ in Australia is a rapid paced household trend. This is believed to be another major cause of isolation. Adding fuel to fire, majority of the population in Australia increasingly fall under mature or aged category and this type of society can easily feel isolated. (Kelly 2012)
Bauman (2000) has highlighted jobs of today as being insecure in terms of livelihood or position and highly uncertain regarding the stability of future. He exemplifies it with fashion trends that if they are alive today, they may vanish tomorrow. Similarly assets today may turn out to be liabilities tomorrow.
Sennett (1998) is of the view that everyone lives a life like a story that can be attributed to the utilization of time that ultimately passes away and major events related to work. Work is a continuous scale of success, passing time and individual beliefs. During earlier part of the twentieth century, security and identity were two main aspects linked with jobs. Professionals followed a time schedule and followed their career path in the same field. But modern economy has become very flexible i.e. ‘flexible capitalism’. In this era organisations are continuously evolving in view of the changing conditions of the market and requirements. So, it has become very difficult for one to remain fit within a single organisation for the entre career. Permanent or long term contractual positions are not offered anymore. Sennett has given the example of Rico, who changes his jobs more often due to this scenario and never finds his clear identity in career.
Cooke and Baxter (2010) have focused on two major family aspects: transition of people within relationships and out, division of labour based on gender. The data of previous decade shows that trends in policy and socio-economic conditions have greatly affected the importance and orientation of effects at an individual level. These patterns greatly vary from one country to another due to different social and economic set-ups.
Booth and Van-Ours (2008) has studied the connection among job contentment, part time and no. of hours work, and overall satisfaction in life. It has been observed that maximum no. of hours’ satisfaction is common in male workers and it has no impact on their contentment with the job or life. Having a job or being unemployed is of major concern for men and it affects their life satisfaction. Women on the other hand show a contrasting trend to incline towards part time jobs and their contentment with life is also not affected by whether a job is small or extensive. Women having no children don’t bother about how many hours they are required to work. Women with children however feel excited if they get an employment and number of hours is of no major concern for them too.
Urban scientists, sociologists and economists have always imagined about regions, cities and town. A city has been considered as a symbol of transformation, diversity and novelty and resourcefulness. In the recent times, this imagination has been shifted more towards the role of organisations and enterprized in the cities. Mostly their decision of location and how much they focus on the people is debated heavily. National as well as regional growth and innovation is initiated by creativity and diversity (Florida 2003).
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Planning our cities to facilitate social interaction and family life can lower the isolation level in the population. Transportation facilities of the cities can be improved to maximize the time available for family and social interaction after the work. People can easily gather and participate in any sports but it requires the availability of a sports ground in the close vicinity of the home. Picnics and outdoor leisure activities can be easily planned if there is a park at a walking distance. This can prove to be an ideal social place to interact with friends. Movement is easy in the streets by car, this makes life better but overload of traffic can hinder spending quality time after work. The city should have a comprehensive traffic plan to maintain a steady flow of traffic all the time and avoid traffic jams. Alternative routes and development along those routes can also be beneficial. Industrial and housing sectors should be carefully located to minimize the impact on lower class labour.
Housing and infrastructure of the future cities should be according to the changing family needs that suit their household life, work and social life. The idea of small yet adjustable houses is great that can be refurnished to personal taste of the families. Revitalising relatively older or unused land near the existing transportation network can be used for building new houses. Social centres can be useful to rejuvenate the social aspects of life. These social centres can also be built in the form of a complex where green areas, social meet-u p places, green areas and accommodation is all located in a single building. It will make the life of a working family easier and enjoyable. Such buildings can be located near major corporate sectors to avoid the need of long travel to reach to the job or home.
In order to avoid loneliness and isolation of older members of society who are living alone, multifamily homes can be a better option where senior citizens can feel comfortable and socialised. Elements of diversity, creativity and mixing should be considered to make it possible for poor families to afford a shelter. Open area and broad streets can be designed to serve different purposes during different times slots of the day and night (Roger 2019).
In conclusion, solution to work-family imbalance can become easier by building more dynamic or social cities. There are many factors that affect the quality and quantity of the social interactions is in fact not an urban phenomenon. Currently, this issue may not be a bigger challenge for Australia because statistics still show it among the list of positive countries with respect to social interaction. However, in the coming times if our cities are to facilitate and accommodate huge volume of population, it can be quite challenging. Thus, it will be wise to prepare for the future and plan our cities to meet needs of all socio-economic classes of the society. Majority of the issues discussed earlier in this essay are expensive to deal with and people always claim that they are never given a chance to participate in decision making about the things that matter them the most. Keeping in view all the possible solutions to address the problem of work-family imbalance, working on social aspects is perhaps the one with lowest cost while the most beneficial of all. The world is changing at a rapid pace and in every domain of life there is some aspect of globalisation. Government and people should realize needs of the next generation and problems of the current generations to plan cost effective, productive and socially viable cities.
- Bauman, Zygmunt 2000, ‘Work’, in Liquid modernity, Polity Press, Cambridge, England, pp. 130-167
- Bianchi, Suzanne M. & Milkie, Melissa A. 2010, ‘Work and family research in the first decade of the 21st century’, Journal of marriage and the family, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 705-725
- Booth, Alison L. & van Ours, Jan C. 2008, ‘Job satisfaction and family happiness : the part-time work puzzle’, The economic journal, vol. 118, no. 526, pp. F77-F99
- Cooke, Lynn P. & Baxter, Janeen 2010, ‘”Families” in international context : comparing institutional effects across western societies’, Journal of marriage and the family, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 516-536
- Florida, R. (2003), Cities and the Creative Class. City & Community, 2: 3-19. doi:10.1111/1540-6040.00034
- Kelly, Jane-Frances 2012, ‘Social cities’, Grattan Institute, pp.1-66
- Pocock, B., Skinner, N. and Williams, P. (2007) Work, Life and Time. The Australian Work Life Index, Hawke Centre, University of South Australia. Adelaide
- Roger Patulny 2019, ‘Utopias – Futurism, Liveable Cities, Happy families?’ Law, Humanities and Arts, Sociology Program, University of Wollongong
- Sennett, Richard 1998, ‘Drift’, in Corrosion of character : the personal consequences of work in the new capitalism, Norton, New York, pp. 15-31