You are here

When the time comes for having children, too many women still face a difficult decision: career or family. Combining both priorities is challenging when childcare is unavailable, parental leave is limited and flexible work arrangements are rare. The result is that many women either end up with fewer children than they want, or are unable to fulfil their career potential. 

Both outcomes have negative repercussions, not only for individual women who are left with fewer choices and opportunities, but also for society as a whole. When millions of women are in effect forced to give up their careers to take care of children and the household, their talents and other contributions remain untapped in the economy and public life. And when millions of women can’t have the number of children they want because that would in effect end their careers, the resulting low birth rates add further pressure on population numbers already in decline.
This is why UNFPA, with support from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), is partnering with the private sector and governments to champion gender-responsive family policies in the Western Balkans and Moldova. Evidence shows that such policies – both at the national level and those implemented by the private sector – are powerful tools to shift discriminatory gender norms and redistribute unpaid care work so that both men and women can realize their career aspirations and their fertility intentions.

What does the Expanding Choices Program work on?


Working with the private sector to pilot and promote family-friendly workplaces, which can make significant improvements in gender equality, and benefits both companies and employees.


Supporting governments to strengthen and improve gender-responsive family policies promotes gender equality, more equal distribution of unpaid care work and boosts economic growth.


Addressing harmful gender stereotypes to expand choices for women and encourage men to take an active role in fatherhood and care responsibilities.


Building the evidence, knowledge and tools around this relatively new body of work to deliver evidence-based advocacy and create a tested and replicable model for gender-responsive family policies.

What are the programme benefits?

To companies:

  • Better reputation and competitiveness
  • Lower absenteeism, turnover, health-related and recruitment costs
  • Greater retention of female staff, especially working mothers returning to work after maternity leave
  • More inclusive and equal workforce
  • More innovative, productive and profitable companies

To governments:

  • Stronger demographic resilience
  • Supports the achievement of gender equality and women's empowerment
  • Increased uptake of national family-friendly policies and benefits
  • More dynamic labour market by removing barriers to women’s participation in the workforce
  • Increased economic growth

To societies:

  • More equally shared unpaid care work between men and women
  • Greater choices and capabilities for families to have the number of children they want
  • Positive and equal gender norms and roles are promoted
  • More equal, resilient and economically stable families
  • Better development outcomes for children, including health, education and well-being
  • Better quality of life and well-being of families

Latest News


Video on Family-Friendly Workplaces


The Expanding Choices programme strives to develop and share knowledge, evidence and tools around family-friendly policies to support and further scale this work in the region. A number of assessments, case studies and reports have been undertaken and authored through this programme and can be found below.