April 06th 2016

Family Policy and Its Challenges.

Dr. Sophie Karmasin, Federal Minister of Families and Youth, Vienna

Within the frame of the MCI Alumni & Friends series of lectures, the Entrepreneurial School® welcomed the Federal Minister of Families and Youth, Dr. Sophie Karmasin from Vienna, who states: “Family-owned businesses are a matter of particular concern to me.”

Before assuming the office of an independent federal minister, Karmasin was active as a motivation researcher for almost 20 years. She particularly studied the needs, dreams, and the sorrows of women and families. Upon Rector Andreas Altmann’s ice-breaking question about her motivation to quit the career as an entrepreneur and enter into politics, Karmasin admits: “There wasn’t much time to carefully think this question over; in fact, I was only given 23 hours. I had to deliver my final decision by the end, which was by half past three p.m., of the following day. My decision was an emotional one. I simply chose to go with my guts.”

Austria is not yet as family-friendly as Karmasin imagines it to be. She consequently defines her political goal as follows: Until 2025, Austria shall become the most family-friendly country of Europe. “Child care is not yet readily available in Austria,” Karmasin criticizes. Many child care facilities lack in places, flexibility, and quality. She therefore believes that the development of child care in all aspects must be a priority. In order to make quick progress, the Federal Government launches one of the hitherto biggest initiatives: According to the Federal Minister of Families and Youth, 305 million Euros will be invested to improve current conditions.

Sophie Karmasin breaks with predominant stereotypes: She challenges the traditional concept of family according to which the father works to earn a living and the mother gives up her career to stay at home and take care of the children. She is convinced that this system interferes with the quality of life. Both women and men should be granted the possibility to decide for themselves whether they wish to devote themselves to raising children or to making a career. Politics should not be entitled to prescribe the structure of families. For Karmasin, family is much more a construct based on values like trust, solidarity, and mutual support. From her point of view, legal conditions should therefore only come second.

The Federal Minister has recently started work on an education compass. The project aims to assess the strengths and possible weaknesses of children as well as to provide individually optimized support. Towards the end of her talk, Karmasin additionally introduces the project “Companies for Families”: In March of 2015 Karmasin established a network which now spans 200 family-owned businesses and 30 municipalities. The network provides best practice examples for the reconciliation of family and career.

MCI Rector Andreas Altmann finally moderates a lively discussion, during the course of which Karmasin emphasizes the fact that commonly more women than men work in unpaid jobs: The Federal Minister appears determined to advance the equal treatment of both genders in order to change this situation.