Reconciling Work, Family and Child Outcomes:
What Implications for Family Support Policies?
Received: 26 January 2010 / Accepted: 10 August 2012 / Published online: 1 September 2012
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract This paper discusses the potential of family policies to reconcile the
multiple objectives that they are expected to serve, over and above their role in
offsetting the economic cost of children. We start by emphasizing the need to consider
the multiple challenges that family policies in European Union—and/or OECD—
countries have to address through a broadening of the standard economic approach to
the cost of children. Policies indeed aim to reduce the ‘‘direct’’ monetary cost of raising
children, but they also aim to minimise the indirect cost arising from the incidence of
children on the parents’ work-life balance and on the aggregate level of employment.
Moreover, motives for policy intervention such as concerns about child development,
gender equity or aggregate fertility levels are not fully captured by cost measurements.
We thus analyse how, and to what extent, family policies can successfully reconcile
these multidimensional objectives. We offer a holistic approach, pointing out that a
coherent family policy mix supporting working parents with preschool children is the
only way to reconcile or limit the conﬂicts between work, family and child outcomes.
Three main dichotomies are identiﬁed to explain cross-country differences in family
policy packages: the emphasis on poverty alleviation; the supposed antagonism
between fertility and female employment; and the potential conﬂict between this latter
and child development. Ways to reconcile these objectives and to improve the
effectiveness and efﬁciency of family policies are further discussed.
INED (Institut National d’Etudes De
mographiques), 133, Boulevard Davout,
75980 Paris Cedex 20, France
Social Policy Division, OECD, 2 Rue Andre
Pascal, 75016 Paris, France
Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne – Universite
Paris 1, Paris Cedex 13, France
Popul Res Policy Rev (2012) 31:855–882