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.
Population Research and Policy Review – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 1, 2012
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