Welcome to the Project "Households, Work and Flexibility" funded under the Fifth Framework Programme of the European Union.

This EU project aims to look at how changing forms of flexibility affect work and family life.  8 partner countries compare the situation in Eastern and Western Europe and show the consequences of different social policies.

Project Coordinator: Professor Claire Wallace

Project co-ordination: Institute for Advanced Studies / Institute fur Hohere Studien IHS, Austria

About the Project


The aim of this project is to look at how different kinds of work are combined within households and how social and labour market policies in different countries affect this.  With debates about flexibility taking place in many European countries, the project considers the effects of different policies regarding flexible employment might have for the daily lives of people and families.  An important aspect of this is the gendered division of work both inside and outside of the home and those combinations of paid and unpaid work.

The different countries represented in the project provide contrasting examples of different approaches to flexibility and also the possibility of an East/West comparison.


The project began in April 2000 and ended in 2003.

Understanding flexibility:

The project is based upon a sample survey of people in each country who are asked about their own experiences of different kinds of employment along with those of other members of their households.  The questionnaire considers paid as well as unpaid work and the strtegies through which households approach these different kinds of work.

Flexibility is construed as flexibility of time, place and conditions of work.




Combining different kinds of work

In this project, we take a broad view of work.  It should include a variety of different kinds of paid work including casual and occasional work, work at home, work abroad and work in the workplace.  It should also include unpaid work, such as that done for civil socity organisations, for neighbours or friends and as part of the management of daily life in the household.  Such varieties of work are important in all European societies and should be considered in combination.  However, in Central and Eastern European societies it was common to grow vegetables and keep animals for food or for exchanging with others as part of the self-provisioning informal economy.  By considering how all these different kinds of work are combined, we can better understand the implications of different employment regimes for households.


By flexibility, we understand flexibility of time, place and conditions.  Flexibility of time means the different hours and days that it is possible to work and here we contrast regular and irregular hours.  Flexibility of place means the actual place where the work is carried out, which could be at home, at a work place, abroad or always changing.  Flexibility of conditions means the kinds of contracts which people might hold and these could be fixed term, paid by the day, long term or permanent.  The project tries to consider the impact of these different kinds of flexibility upon the individual worker and upon the households in which they live. 

Household members

The project considers the role of different household members in getting the work done and how these might interact.  Of course, some people will be living alone, but most people in Europe live in some sort of household and therefore we need to consider the gender and generational divisions of labour between them.

Attitudes to work and family

The research elucidates not only the patterns of work and household but also the attitudes that respondents may hold towards the time, place and conditions of their work on the one hand and towards the combination of household and work on the other.  In particular, we are interested in whether flexible work engenders stress or greater opportunities for individuals - is it positive or negative in its outcomes?

Policies, households and work

The research considers the role of labour market and social policies in different countries in order to understand what impact they might have on flexibility, households and work.  The countries chosen for this comparative study exhibit different forms of flexibility and a range of different policies associated with it.  In particular, we were concerned to compare the new accession countries of Eastern and Central Europe with Western European countries that are more established members of the European Union.  the different histories, economies and forms of social organisation in these different contexts may help us to understand factors that could lead to positive forms of flexibility and ones that might lead to more negative outcomes for households and individuals.  Thus, the project seeks to combine the macro-level trends and policies with their impact at a micro-level on households and individuals.


The fragmentation of labour markets has been a feature of all contemporary societies in both Eastern and Western Europe.  Flexibility is often seen as a necessary and desirable element of change, especially in the post-communist countries and is even included in packages of reform.  Flexibility can mean the opportunity to work different hours in different places but it also associated with declining employment conditions and the erosion of security.  In some countries it is associated with developments in the informal economy.  But what is the impact of such changes on households and individuals?  Are they prepared to change?  Do they want to change?  What impact does it have on male and female family members, on young and old family members and on the way that household work gets done? Does increasing flexibility lead to less preparedness to do voluntary work as people find themselves with less time and security, so that civil society is actually underminded by such developments?  Or is civil society is strengthened by such developments as people have more time to devote to other activities?  Does flexibility mean that people now have to do three different jobs to earn their living where in the past they might have done only one?  Who controls flexible employment and how are terms and conditions negotiated between contractors, employers and employees?  These are still open questions and ones that can be investigated by comparing different countries and different groups of workers within countries.

An important theme emerging in contemporary societies is the how households combine work with family life and with their different responsibilities to one another.  With large numbers of women working in the formal labour market as well as in the domestic sphere, flexibility offers the possibility of more options for combining roles on the one hand, but also the possibility of more stress as partners run from one job to another and their sense of security is eroded.  The extent to which this can be positive challenge or a negative outcome of labour market and gender-work changes are explored in the project.



The main research instrument will be a representative sample survey, to be carried out in the first year in each of the partner countries.  From this survey, it will be possible to consider the actual behaviour of households in the target countries and how far these are shaped by different policies and regulations.  The survey considers the activities of all household members, although that of the main respondent is considered in most detail.  It asks about a variety of types of work: domestic, informal, casual and voluntary, as well as about formal employment.  The survey also considers the attitudes and values of the respondents with regard to work.  This survey will be analysed and the results disseminated first at a national level in the respective countries and then the results will be analysed in comparative perspective to provide an international overview. 

A second research instrument will be the collection of labour markets statistics and regulations for each country in order to understand the context within which the survey is set. This will include demographic data, labour market trends and labour market regulations, social policies for the family. The results will be first collected and analysed at a national level and then on comparative basis.

The third main research instrument will be the collection of data about the flexibilisation debate in each country in order to understand the cultural and political context of the bata described above and in order to ascertain the different meanings of flexibilisation.

The whole project will result in a series of papers at both national level and at a comparative level and in the construction of a data base of results which can be disseminated through national data archives and through this home page.  Results will be posted here as they become available in the form of working papers, publications and brief summaries of main findings.


HWF Cross-Country Survey

General Information

Whilst there is considerable information for Western European countries, the information for Eastern European countries is much poorer.  Data there have only recently been gathered in such a way as to permit international comparison and are even then are not always available to researchers.  Even in Western Europe, there are wide variations in what material is available for different countries.  For this reason, we have constructed a questionnaire for a representative sample survey of at least 1000 individuals in each country and this was carried out in Spring 2001.

The survey is based upon a randomly selected sample of people according to standard international conventions.  As we can see from the chart below, the response rate varied from between 20% and 93%, but in all cases this was apparently normal for that country.  It was not possible to undertake face to face surveys in all countries, so in the Netherlands and Sweden, a telephone interview was carried out instead.

The surveys were conducted between February and June 2001 and its results shall be available at later stages of the project.

Summary Table

  Response rate Sample size Type of surveys
UK  ~58% 945 Face to face
NL <20% 1008 Telephone
SE 69% 1580 Telephone
SI 65% 1008 Face to face
CZ 53.3% 1556 Face to face
HU 60-65% 1165 Face to face
BG 90% 1806 Face to face
RO 93% 1848 Face to face
  Total 10916  


 The Questionnaire

 General Information

The questionnaire is designed to cover the way in which the activities of different household members combine, including both paid and unpaid work, work in the formal and in the black or grey economy (a very important field in some countries).  It is also designed to look at attitudes to flexibility as well as behaviour.  For this reason, we have looked at all forms of work, including domestic work, child care, work in the informal economy, self provisioning and additional casual and occasional jobs in addition to various kinds of regular employment.  Each of these issues has very different connotations in the different parts of Europe.

Section one: Individual respondents

The main respondent is the individual.  The first part of the questionnaire relates to the individual responses and in order to try to understand the combination of different types of economic activity, we have asked in some detail about various sources of income.  There are then some more detailed questions about the main economic activity, including the kinds of hours worked, places worked and working conditions.  There are some questions designed to elucidate not just under what conditions a person is working, but also the reasons for that particular set of conditions and whether it is chosen or forced upon them.  Finally, respondents are asked about how happy they are with these arrangements and if they would want to change them.  Similar, although less detailed questions, are asked about the second, third and fourth economic activity of the respondent.  The assumption is that the flexible work would more likely found in the second, third or fouth activity and that this might be combined with a more stable first activity.

Section two: Households members

The second part of the questionnaire uses a series of grids to ask about other members of the household.  Here the information collected is less detailed, because it is collected from only one person in the household.  The composition of the household forms the topic of one grid.  The different kinds of work undertaken by different households are the subject of the second grid.  The third grid looks at a variety of different domestic tasks and asks respondents which household member, or who outside of the household carries out these tasks.  The next grid considers voluntary and unpaid work for others outside of the household by different family members, with the intention to get some measure of social capital in different countries.  It is assumed that whereas formal social capital in the sense of contribution to voluntary organisations may be low in CECs, informal help for others might nevertheless be well developed.  The next grid attempts to look at how key household decisions are made and who has the most important decision making role in this respect.  Is it the key wage earner?  Or is it the most senior person on the household?  In this part of the questionnaire we should be able to explore the extent to which different contributions to the household may result in different balances of power within the household.

Section three: Work values

The third section of the questionnaire is devoted to work values.  It considers the extent to which people are happy about their various economic activities and the extent to which these might impinge upon or help family life.  Finally, we try to look at sources of discord and tension in the area of work and household with particular respect to flexibility.  This part of the questionnaire should enable us to better understand the extent to which flexibility may be a help or a hinderance to the organisation of family life and the extet to shich it may lead to conflict.

Section four: Potential for flexibility

The next section of the questionnaire considers the potential for flexibility, by asking under what conditions people would move house, move jobs or retrain.  Another table considers job changes since 1989 and this would be particularly relevant in CEC countries.  This would give some indication of how flexible the respondent was until now.

Section five: Economic resources of households

The final questions in the questionnaire measure the economic resources of the household, including not only income but also other resources such as consumer goods, land and domestic animals owned, access to telecomunications and so on.  Again we have tried to take a rather comprehensive view of what is meant by household resources.




Project co-ordination, Austria

Institute for Advanced Studies

  • Team Leader: Claire Wallace
  • Other members: Alexander Chvorostov


Paissii Hilendarski State University of Plovdiv

  • Team Leader: Siyka Kovatcheva

Czech Republic

Institute of Sociology, AS CR

  • Team Leader: Jiri Vecernik
  • Other members: Petra Stepankova


Tarki Group

  • Team Leader: Endre Sik


The Stoas Group

  • Team Leader: Annet Jager
  • Other members: Rob le Rutte


ICCV Calea

  • Team Leader: Manuela Stanculescu



  • Team Leader: Pavle Sicherl


Department of Sociology at Umea University

  • Team Leader: Thomas Boje
  • Other members: Mattias Strandh


University of Hertfordshire

  • Team Leader: Christine Cousins

HWF Series of Project Research Reports

A series of HWF Research reports represent the main findings and outcomes of the research project "Households, Work and Flexibility" (2000-2003), funded by the programme "Improving Human Potential" of the European Community.

The five reports are dedicated to various aspects of the problem-filed flexibility, home and labour market.  The following countries are covered: UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria.  The analysis is based upon a comparative survey along with labour market and social policy studies.  Some are collections with chapters representing each individual country report and some are comparative reports where the chapters represent instead different themes, written by different team members.

List of reports:

  • Flexi-Findings, Issue 1, Spring 2002 pdf

  • Flexi-Findings, Issue 2, Spring 2003 pdf

  • Flexi-Findings, Issue 3, Fall 2003 pdf

Other publications
  • Haas, Barbara; Wallace, Claire (2004). "Comparing the Relationship between Satisfaction, Flexibility and Control of Work in Eight European Countries " in Cross National Research Papers. University of Loughborough pdf
  • Jager, Annet; Kops, Yvonne; Van der Lippe, Tanja (2003). "Combination pressure: the work family balance in European countries" Working Paper. pdf
  • Jager, Annet; Kops, Yvonne; Van der Lippe, Tanja (2003). "In balans tussen werk en prive" Working Paper. pdf
  • Wallace, Claire (2003). "Work and Flexibility in European countries: A cross-national comparison". Czech Sociological Review. Vol 39 (6) pp 773-794. pdf
  • Jager, Annet; Kops, Yvonne; Van der Lippe, Tanja; Wallace, Claire (2002). "Combinatiedruk in Europa".  in M. Keizer, K. Verhaar. Sociale Verkenningen nr. 5. Familiezaken. Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid. Directie Onderzoek& Ontwikkeling. December 2002. Essays. pdf
  • Kolosi, Tamas; Toth, Istvan Gyorgy; Vukovich, Gyorgy eds. (2002). "Flexible shifts and flexible families" Social Report 2002, Hungary, budapest, TARKI, 2002, pp. 256-270. pdf
  • Kovacheva, Siyka (2002). "Family relationships in the context of work flexibilisation under post-communism". Paper presented at the Parent/Child International conference on Adolexcence, London, UK 18-19 April 2002. pdf
  • Van der Lippe, Tanja (2002) "Work home interference in seven European countries" Presentation prepared for the IATUR conference: Work Time and Leisure Time: Dynamics and Convergence in Changing Contexts Lisbon, October 15-18. pdf
  •  Wallace, Claire (2002). "Household Strategies: their conceptual relevance and analytical scope in social research" Sociology Vol 36 (2), pp 275-292. pdf
  • Kovacheva, Siyka (2001). "Flexibilisation of youth transitions in Central and Eastern Europe".  Young, Vol. 9 (1), pp 41-60. pdf
  • Kovacheva, Siyka (2001). "Flexible Labour and Household Strategies in Post-communist Bulgaria: Intergenerational and Gender Dimensions". Paper presented at the 5th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Helsinki, 28th Augus-1st September.  pdf
  • Nagy, Ildiko; Pongracz, Tiborne; Toth, Istvan Gyorgy (2001). "The institution of the head of family-gender roles in the family" Changing Roles, Report on the Situation and Men and Women in 2001, Hungary, Budapest, 2002, pp. 155-175.  pdf
  • Sicherl, Pavle (2001). "Comparing In Two Dimensions: A Broader Concept and a Novel Statistical Measure of the Time Dimension of Disparity".  Paper presented at the 5th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Helsinki, August 28-September 1. pdf
  • Wallace, Claire; Cousins, Christine (2001). "Households, Work and Flexibility (HWF)". Cross National Research Perspectives. pdf

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Report Downloads

HWF Research Report #1: Critical Review of literature

ISSN 1682-9131, June 2002, pp. 243 Editor Claire Wallace

This volume is the first publication in a series of research reports being produced within the framework of a multinational research project "Households, Work and Flexibility".

Individual chapters of the report (one chapter for every country in the project plus an international overview) summarize national debates over flexibility as well as relationship between home and work.

In addition, the authors describe, where possible, the contemporary discourse about flexibility in each country.  The countries covered are: three EU-members (United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden) and five pre-accession countries (Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania).

Chapters for download:

  • 0. Cover, imprint and table of contents pdf
  • 1. Overview: Households, Work and Flexibility pdf
  • 2. Literature review: United Kingdom pdf
  • 3. Literature review: the Netherlands pdf
  • 4. Literature review: Sweden pdf
  • 5. Literature review: Slovenia pdf
  • 6. Literature review: Czech Republic pdf
  • 7. Literature review: Hungary pdf
  • 8. Literature review: Bulgaria pdf
  • 9. Literature review: Romania pdf
  • Brief information on the authors pdf
  • Related publications pdf

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HFW Research Report #2 Country Contextual Reports [Demographic trends, labour market and social policies]

ISSN 1682-9131, May 2003, pp. 360 Editor: Claire Wallace

This volume "Country contextual reports: Demographic trends, labour market and social policies" is the second publication in a series of research reports being produced within the framework of the multinational research project "Households, Work and Flexibility".

Individual chapters in the report give a description and analysis of labour market policies, demographic and social trends and family and social policies with a special emphasis on flexibility for each country in the project.

The countries covered are: three EU-member states (United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden) and five Applicant countries (Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania).

Structure: 8 countries, 8 chapters, Introduction and annexes

Chapters for Download:

  • 0. Covers, introduction and annex pdf
  • 1. Country context report: United Kingdom pdf
  • 2. Country context report: the Netherlands pdf
  • 3. Country context report: Sweden pdf
  • 4. Country context report: Slovenia pdf
  • 5. Country context report: Czech Republic pdf
  • 6. Country context report: Hungary pdf
  • 7. Country context report: Bulgaria pdf
  • 8. Country context report: Romania pdf
  • 9. Brief information on the authors pdf
  • 10. Related publications pdf 

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HWF Research Report #3: HWF Survey report by countries

ISSN 1682-9131, May 2003, pp. 478 Editor: Claire Wallace

This volume "HWF Survey: Country Survey Reports" is the third book published in a series of research reports produced within the frameworks of the multinational research project "Households, Work and Flexibility" (2000-2003).  This publication is based upon the outcomes of a large-scale sociological survey that has been conducted in early 2001 (more than 10 thousands respondents in eight European countries).  Individual chapters in the report give a description and analysis of the main survey results for each country in the project covering flexibility and the relationship between family and work.  The countries covered are: three EU member states (United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden) and five Applicant countries (Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania).

Structure: 8 countries, Introduction, 8 chapters and Annexes.

Chapters for download:

  • 0. Covers, contents, introduction, annexes pdf
  • 1. HWF Survey report: United Kingdom pdf
  • 2. HWF Survey report: the Netherlands pdf
  • 3. HWF Survey report: Sweden pdf
  • 4. HWF Survey report:Slovenia pdf
  • 5. HWF Survey report: Czech Republic pdf
  • 6. HWF Survey report: Hungary pdf
  • 7. HWF Survey report: Bulgaria pdf
  • 8. HWF Survey report: Romania pdf
  • 9. Annex: Survey description pdf
  • 10. Brief information on authors pdf
  • 11. Related publications pdf

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HWF Research Report #4: HWF Survey comparative report.

ISSN 1682-9131, 2003 Editor: Claire Wallace

The fourth report of the HWF Research Reports Series represents the outcomes of the large-scale international HWF Survey carried out in 2001 in eight European countries. The first volume contains sets of survey reference tables and the general overview of survey outcomes. The second volume is a collection of thematic reports written by members of the HWF research consortium.

Volume One: Cross Country Overview and Reference Tables

This volume "HWF Survey Comparative Report Volume 1" is the first volume of the fourth publication in a series of research reports being produced within the framework of the multinational research project "Households, Work and Flexibility". 

The first section of the report provides a selective overview of the main findings of the survey carried out in 2001 in 8 countries as part of the project.  The countries covered asr: three EU-member states (United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden) and five Applicant countries (Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania).

Chapters for download:

0. Covers, contents, introduction pdf

1. Part One: Cross-Country Overview pdf

  • Chapter 1. Introductory notes to the HWF survey
  • Chapter 2. Income sources and accumulation of incomes
  • Chapter 3. Economic situation of the household
  • Chapter 4. Employment status
  • Chapter 5. Stability and flexibility of jobs and contracts
  • Chapter 6. Flexibility of time
  • Chapter 7. Place of work
  • Chapter 8. Control over flexibility
  • Chapter 9. Potential flexibility
  • Chapter 10. Job changes in the last ten years
  • Chapter 11. Family-work conflicts

2. Part Two: Reference Tables pdf

  • Chapter 12. Introductory notes to the reference tables
  • Chapter 13. Most important individual income sources
  • Chapter 14. Most important household income sources
  • Chapter 15. Economic situation of the household
  • Chapter 16. Employment status
  • Chapter 17. Potential flexibility
  • Chapter 18. Family-work conflicts

HWF Survey: Mast questionnaire pdf

HWF Survey: Technical notes by countries pdf

Technical notes on the coding of income and education level variables pdf

Brief information on authors pdf

Related publications pdf

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Volume Two: Thematic Reports

This volume "HWF Survey Comparative Report Volume 2" is the second volume of the fourth publication in a series of research reports being produced within the framework of the multinational research project "Households, Work and Flexibility".  Individual chapters in the report provide a detailed analysis of the various themes and problems covered by the project divided according to the flexibility and family-work relations on a comparative basis.  The countries covered are: three EU-member states (United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden) and five Applicant countries (Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Beulgaria and Romania).

Chapters for download:

0. Covers, contents, introduction, annexes pdf

Part One: Labour Market Flexibility

  • Chapter 1: Socio-economic status and patterns of work flexibility pdf
  • Chapter 2: Are the flexible working arrangements across Europe worse that regular employment? pdf
  • Chapter 3: How much work flexibility is there in Eastern and Western Europe? pdf
  • Chapter 4: Are Swedish workers less flexible than the Dutch and British workers or are the three markets just characterized by different patterns of flexibility? pdf
  • Chapter 5: Work and job values in CEE and EU countries pdf
  • Chapter 6: An analysis of non-standard employment and working time arrangements in the Czech Republic and Hungary pdf
  • Chapter 7: Flexible work and young people's labour market integratio nin the process of globalization pdf

Part Two: Family-Work Relations

  • Chapter 8: Working time, gender and family: an East-West European comparison pdf
  • Chapter 9: Working time, flexibility and family life in the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden pdf
  • Chapter 10: The work-family balance for couples in Europe. A comparative analysis on combination pressure in six European countries pdf
  • Chapter 11: Does family friendly policy influence the costs of being flexible? pdf
  • Chapter 12: The reconciliation of work and family obligations: A comparison between Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden pdf

Annex: Summary of the HWF survey fieldwork pdf

Brief information on authors pdf

Related publications pdf

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HWF Research Report #5: Comparative contextual report. [Demographic trends, labour market and social policies].

ISSN 1682-9131, April 2004, pp. 145 Editor: Claire Wallace

This book "HWF: Comparative context Report" is the fifth issue in a series of research reports being produced within the framework of the multinational research project "Households, Work and Flexibility".

The Report provides a comparative overview of demographic trends, labour market trends, labour market policies and social and family policies relating to flexibility, as well as trends in atypical forms of employment in all the 8 countries of the project.

The countries covered are: three EU-member states (United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden) and five Applicant countries (Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania).

Chapters for download:

0. Cover, contents, preface, annexes pdf

1. Part One: Labour market, family and social policies pdf

[Claire Wallace, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna]

  • Chapter 1: Demographic and employment trends
  • Chapter 2: Economic indicators
  • Chapter 3: Social protection
  • Chapter 4: Social and family policies
  • Annex (Part One)
  • References (Part One)

2. Part Two: Long-term trends in atypical forms of employment pdf

[Pavle Sicherl, SICENTER and University of Ljubljana]

  • Chapter 5: Introductory notes to the analysis of trends in atypical employment
  • Chapter 6: Development background and historical circumstances
  • Chapter 7: Atypical forms of employment
  • Chapter 8: Conclusions about atypical forms employment
  • Notes (Part Two)
  • Annex (Part Two)
  • References (Part Two)

Annex pdf

Summary of the HWF Survey fieldwork pdf

Brief information on authors pdf

Related publications pdf

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Final Scientific Report

Download Scientific Report pdf

Download Dissemination Report pdf

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