Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Considering changing families in a changing world

What happens when 160 people focus their attention on the issues of changing families in a changing world? We found out last week when scholars and others met for our international conference in Edinburgh. During three lovely sunny Edinburgh days we learned, amongst other things, about older people in Taiwan, being adopted in Belgium, childcare in Malaysia and how rich and poor kids mix in the USA.

Thinking about change and families in the context of globalisation gave us all a new take on our work and a clear route for comparison. What became apparent using this lens was that the changes in work patterns and increased mobility put pressure on the existing fractures of work-life balance and gender inequalities wherever families live across the globe. We could see that there are many shared global experiences, like adoption and parenting, which also have strong local shaping factors.

Highlighted in Barrie Thorne’s keynote presentation, as well as a clear thread through many parallel sessions, was the tenacity of the issues of inequalities between the most and least well off - within many countries as well as across the globe. We have been trying to eradicate these inequalities for a long time, at least since Victorian reformers like Charles Booth in the Uk in the late 19th century wrote his report. What is clear from collecting experiences from around the globe is that we are not succeeding.

We hope that the output from the conference will be available more widely in a variety of forms and are planning some publications. We also hope that everyone who attended will take away new ideas, conversations, colleagues, and continue to develop their knowledge so that we can tackle some of these big challenges facing families in the changing world.

Inquiry into the life and labour of the people in London (1886-1903) (Charles Booth Online Archive)

We will make some of the papers and presentations available via our website in due course

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