Lone Parents, Employment and Social Policy: Cross-National Comparisons

Lone Parents, Employment and Social Policy: Cross-National Comparisons

Lone Parents, Employment and Social Policy: Cross-National Comparisons

Lone Parents, Employment and Social Policy: Cross-National Comparisons


Policy makers across the world are confronting issues relating to lone parents and employment, with many governments seeking to increase the participation of lone parents in the labour market. This book is based on an up-to-date analysis of provisions within particular countries, examining whether and how policies support and encourage employment, and drawing out policy lessons. The countries examined are the UK, USA, Australia, France, the Netherlands and Norway. Unlike other studies which have considered this issue, this book includes both country-specific chapters and makes thematic comparisons across countries. Chapters are written by leading experts on lone parenthood in each country. Lone parents, employment and social policy is essential reading for students in social policy, sociology, human geography, gender and women's studies, as well as policy makers and practitioners in the field of lone parents and employment. It will be of interest to those who want to know more about these policy developments but also to those interested in broader issues about gender and welfare states.


This foreword sketches the broader policy context within which policies towards lone parents and employment are being developed in the uk. in some ways, policies towards lone parents are emblematic of New Labour’s welfare reform project, the dominant theme of which can be summed up in the two mantras: ‘reforming welfare around the work ethic’ and a third way in welfare ‘that believes in empowerment not dependency’. Policies to encourage lone parents off social assistance and into paid work are a key plank in delivering the project.

Lone parents have also been at the centre of controversy over benefit levels. When New Labour came to power it gave notice that it rejected a status quo supported by those who “believe that poverty is relieved exclusively by cash handouts” (DSS, 1998, p 19). Improving benefit levels for those not in work was regarded as ‘old Labour’ and therefore not on the agenda. Furthermore, within a few months of coming to power, the government implemented a Conservative plan to abolish the modest additional benefits paid to lone parents, both in and out of work, which followed a period of vilification of lone mothers by Conservative politicians and the media. They were cast as “a drain on public expenditure and as a threat to the stability and order associated with the traditional twoparent family” (Kiernan et al, 1998, p 2). This discourse of lone mothers as a threat overlaid a longer standing discourse of lone mothers as a problem.

The decision to go ahead with the abolition of lone parent benefits created an outcry, which took the government aback. It created an enormous amount of ill-feeling and contributed to a widespread perception that the welfare reform agenda was a cuts agenda. However, partly as a result of the anger generated, there was something of a rethink on the benefits front in the 1998 Budget a few months later. Improvements in benefits for children in families both in and out of work were announced. a year later the Prime Minister committed the government to the eradication of child poverty in two decades and one of its policy tools is proving to be further improvements in children’s benefits.

These two themes – an active welfare state focused on work not welfare (New Labour) and the eradication of child poverty (old Labour) – are . . .

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