Family Change and Family Policies in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

Family Change and Family Policies in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

Family Change and Family Policies in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

Family Change and Family Policies in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

Synopsis

This is the first volume in a series reporting on the evolution of family policies in twenty Western welfare states and comparing current provisions. The developments are presented in the context of a report on family change for each of the countries, and with a view of the economic, political, and institutional contexts in which they occurred. Each of the country reports in the present volume has been prepared as a team collaboration by internationally recognized experts. The co-editors have prepared an analytic introduction, which discussed the methodology for the series as well as the hypotheses that emerge from these first case-studies. The topics include family formation and current structural patterns, families and the division of labour, the income of families (earnings, taxation, transfer programmes) as well as the political and institutional context for family policy. An extensive bibliography is provided. About the series: A series of country studies and comparative analyses examining major changes in the family and the broad specturm of family policies in Western industrial society in the second half of the twentieth century. Vol. 2: The Consociational Democracies: Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands Vol. 3: France and Southern Europe Vol. 4: Capitalist and Socialist Central Europe: Austria, the Germanies, Hungary, and Poland Vol. 5: The Scandinavian Welfare States Vol. 6: Family, Industrial Society, and the Welfare State in the West: Early Variations and Long-Term Developments in Comparative Perspective Vol. 7: Family Policies in the West Since World War II: A Cross-National Analysis

Excerpt

The population of the United Kingdom numbered 57.4 million in 1990. Northern Ireland comprised 1.6 million, Scotland 5.1 million, and England and Wales 50.7 million.

The demographic transition in Britain from the eighteenth century used to be regarded, at least by the British, as a paradigm of the process. A decline in the death rate preceded a decline in the birth rate by a considerable interval, permitting a period of population growth in the nineteenth century which was unprecedented in British history. By around 1870 a fall in the birth rate became apparent and continued, except for the severe disruption of World War I, as a more or less linear decline for sixty years until the 1930s, when it reached a low at about the same level as that today.

From an average Victorian family size of five to six children ever-born (about one would die in infancy, another before maturity), fertility had already declined considerably by 1900. By the end of their childbearing careers, women married in 1900-09 had produced on average 3.4 children. World War I reduced births by about 600,000 over four years, compared to what might have been expected in peacetime. That loss was not entirely restored by the short baby boom which followed (although that baby boom was bigger than the better-known baby boom which followed the end of World War II). As in a number of other Western European countries, 1933 saw a nadir of fertility unmatched for a further forty-five years (total fertility rate = 1.72). Despite that one-year low, the completed family size of women at peak childbearing age at this time was about two children. In the 1930s, fears of the 'twilight of parenthood', future underpopulation, and of 'race suicide' became lively topics in academic and some political circles in Britain and elsewhere. The fertility decline was given added bite by the earlier decline of middle-class fertility compared to that of the working class, and of European fertility compared to that of other nations. While many European countries responded to the fear of population decline with policies designed to prevent abortion and the dissemination of contraceptive knowledge, in Britain the only response was to appoint a Royal Commission on Population. Its report was a pioneering work in demography, and it conducted the first British official enquiry on family planning in 1946. But no practical pro-natalist policies were adopted.

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