IESF's 2nd International Congress on Family and Society Closes with Plans for Third Edition in 2018
Salomé Adroher, the Director-General of Services for Families and Children of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, said on Thursday, 25 September 2014, at the UIC, «The family is essential as an element of social cohesion». She said this was also included in the European Union's agenda (Europe 2020), which reminds Member States of the importance of earmarking 20% of European social funds for social inclusion and investing in children. Adroher made these statements at the official inauguration of the 2nd International Congress on Family and Society: Family and Sustainable Development, which was held on Wednesday and Thursday, 24-25 September 2014, in Barcelona. The congress was organized by the UIC's Institute of Advanced Family Studies (IESF) and was sponsored by the Santander IsFamily Chair, which was created with the support of the Santander Global Universities Division, Banco Santander and the Joaquim Molins Figueras Foundation.
The congress was held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the UN's International Year of the Family. The family as a driver of change was present in the programme topic areas: economics, health, education and family policies. For two intense days, sessions were held in all the disciplines (economics, sociology, health sciences, political sciences, law, demographics, education, psychology) that “bring out the cross-cutting, interdisciplinary nature of family studies”, according to Dr. Montserrat Gas, Director of the IESF. She went on to say, “The academic contributions from experts have not only encouraged reflection, but have also generated new topics for discussion, as well as more in-depth, theory-based and empirical information on the family”. There were 80 speakers at the congress from 33 different countries, including South Africa, Turkey, Canada, China, France, Portugal, Australia, Guatemala, Romania and Macedonia.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF EXPERT OPINIONS
Maria Sophia Aguirre, a professor of Economics at the Catholic University of America, gave the opening paper on the family as a key element for sustainable social development at the global level. Dr. Patricia Debeljuh, the Director of the Family-Business Balance Centre at IAE Business School, was the final speaker on the first day of the congress. She spoke about the need to facilitate and achieve true balance between work and family by considering the family as a new stakeholder in the company, so that business owners and managers support corporate family responsibility as a basic line of action to help generate social capital.
On the second day of the congress, Bradford Wilcox, from the University of Virginia, explained how family structure and stability positively correlate to the emotional, social and educational wellbeing of children all over the world. Prof. Wilcox concluded that children growing in stable, two-parent homes have greater chances of developing satisfactorily, as indicated in the World Family Map 2014, a report presented at the congress.
Pau Miret-Gamundi, a professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, spoke about the influence of the economic situation on demographic development. Among other conclusions, he described how economic expansion has delayed many young people's ability to live on their own.
William Adema, a senior economist in the OECD's Social Policy Division, mentioned some of the many different goals of family policies, which include providing choices when trying to balance work and family, making it possible for married couples to decide to have children when it is the best time for them, making employment more flexible, ensuring equal opportunities for men and women, and reducing child poverty.
James Arthur, a professor of Education and the Head of the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, spoke about the relationship between the amount of time parents spend with their children in the first years of life and the children's character. Prof. Arthur said, "Children who are in regular contact with their grandparents tend to understand and display more compassion, empathy and consideration for others". He pointed out that love is always essential in relations between parents and children because it generates a safe environment for the child.
In his paper, the humanist and economist Stefano Zamagni, from the Università di Bologna and John Hopkins University, said that attention should be paid to family relations when organizing production processes.
Marion Macleod, Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer at Children in Scotland, reminded the audience, “All children have the right to a good quality of life, regardless of their parents' circumstances”. She said it was necessary to provide suitable support to parents in order to minimize social inequality.
María Crespo, a professor of Public Finance at the Universidad de Alcalá, focused her paper on large families in OECD countries and their social benefits, as well as proposals to reduce the tax burden on these families, such as the establishment of a family quotient. In contrast, Stuart Duffin, the Director of Policies and Programmes at One Family in Ireland, discussed the relationship between family, poverty and single-parent homes.
Andrea Maccarini, a professor of Sociology at the Università degli Studi di Padova, examined and described the relationship between family, education and social participation, and how this relationship can be a mechanism for the sustainable development of society because it generates future social capital.
Also participating in the congress was Dolors Gordi, the Secretary for the Family of the Ministry of Social and Family Welfare of the government of Catalonia, who highlighted the importance of the family as a cross-cutting element in all Catalan government policies.
“We hope that these expert opinions and all the ideas exchanged help strengthen the family as a key driver of the sustainable development of society", said Dr. Montserrat Gas, Director of the IESF, who encouraged the audience to participate in the third edition of the congress, which will be held at the UIC in 2018.