The Family in the Mediterranean Welfare State

The Family in the Mediterranean Welfare State

The Family in the Mediterranean Welfare State

The Family in the Mediterranean Welfare State

Excerpt

Family arrangements, in terms of gender and intergenerational relations and patterns of obligations, have been at the core of most social policy since the beginning of the modern welfare state. In regulating labour relations and conditions, and in defining which needs might be socially acknowledged and (at least partly) supported, in fact, social legislation and then social policies have implicitly regulated, or at least interfered, with family and household formation models: redefining the relationships of dependence and interdependence not only between genders, but also between generations; modifying the conditions and costs of reproduction; rewarding, or vice versa discouraging, particular patterns of family and kin obligations. An example of this is the introduction of old age pensions at the beginning of the century: having a pension, in fact, allowed the elderly not only to look with a degree of security to their future out of work; it also allowed them not to depend too exclusively on their kin's, particularly their children's, solidarity. On the contrary, restrictions on child and women's labour, together with the introduction of compulsory schooling, constituted de facto a means of regulating workers' households, with regard to gender and intergenerational relations: first of all by distinguishing household members between 'workers' and 'family dependants'.

Out of this process, which was by no means linear and homogeneous across countries and across social groups, policies developed some ideal household model premised on the one hand on the presence of a male breadwinner, who was not only responsible for providing income, but was also the mediator of social protection for women and children; on the other hand, on the presence of a wife mother who was responsible both for occasionally integrating needed income, and for systematically providing care, particularly for young children.

The attention to the different ways in which gender relations and intergenerational obligations are supported, expected or promoted by social policies has contributed not only to enlarging the scope and dimensions of welfare state research, but to the creation of a whole new 'family' of welfare state typologies. Thus, on the one hand we have (different) typologies proposed by scholars mainly interested in how gender relations are framed within social policies and welfare mixes (e.g. Lewis, 1997; Sainsbury, 1996; Hobson, 1990; O'Connor et al., 1999; Daly, 2000); on the other hand we have typologies proposed by scholars who focus on how intergenerational relations and obligations are framed by and within social policies (e.g.

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