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‘I don't know how to live without working’

Lorena Ortega with her children Antoine and Liza. Cortesía de la familia

For Lorena, a Chilean engineer who has lived in Switzerland for two decades, achieving a balance between work and family is largely possible due to support from family members. 

This content was published on August 9, 2020 - 11:00

Born in Santiago, where she trained as a geometric engineer, she then did an internship at the Federal Institute of Technology EPFL in Lausanne. In Switzerland she met David, her husband with whom she has two children: Antoine, 12, and Liza, 6. She has always worked and for her this is a natural thing. 

"Why do I work? Because that's why I studied. I don't know how to live without working," she says without hesitation. She says that in her social and family environment, women have always worked: her mother and grandmother as teachers, her aunt as a chemical engineer. "Work is essential for development and for being independent.” 

Unlike the situation in Chile, where the middle class can count on the daily support of domestic staff, in Switzerland middle-class families can only hire help by the hour, which affects professional performance and childcare. In Lorena’s case, the family participates actively in caring for the children. 

One day a week the children eat at school. The remaining four days are divided among Lorena, David (both working at 80%), Lorena’s aunt and the children's grandmother who travels from Valais (four hours round-trip by train). 

Lorena doesn’t necessarily think that foreign women work more than Swiss women, but she has observed some differences. 

"It seems to me that here the housework falls more on women, and of my friends I work more outside the home,” she says. 

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