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Work–life (im)‘balance’ and its consequences for everyday learning and innovation in the New Economy: evidence from the Irish IT sector

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Over the last decade, the desirability and means of successfully integrating paid work with other meaningful parts of life has received widespread attention. Despite the profound moral and social significance of work–life balance (WLB), economistic ‘business case’ arguments claiming the benefit of WLB provision for firms' organisational performance continue to dominate the neoliberal policy agenda. However, there remains a paucity of empirical evidence to support the WLB business case. At the same time, conventional business case analyses sideline social equity concerns of workers and their families, and in their focus on revealed output measures of firm performance, say little about the underlying determinants of firms' competitive performance in the New Economy. In response, this article presents new qualitative evidence from Dublin's high-tech regional economy to develop an alternative socioeconomic analysis focused on: (i) gendered experiences of work–life conflict in the Irish IT industry; (ii) the arrangements that different groups of IT workers and their families find most useful in ameliorating those work–life conflicts; and (iii) the mechanisms through which workers' use of those preferred WLB arrangements helps foster and support routine learning and innovation processes within knowledge-intensive firms. As such, the article responds to earlier calls by WLB commentators to develop a ‘dual agenda’ that moves beyond either/or thinking to consider both business and social imperatives in pursuit of optimal work–life balance outcomes.

Keywords: Celtic Tiger; New Economy; Nueva Economía; Tigre Celta; capacitación; equilibrio trabajo-vida personal; innovación; innovation; learning; work–life balance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Queen Mary University of London, School of Geography, Mile EndLondonE1 4NS, UK

Publication date: 2011-10-01

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