The State and the Family: A Comparative Analysis of Family Policies in Industrialized Countries

The State and the Family: A Comparative Analysis of Family Policies in Industrialized Countries

The State and the Family: A Comparative Analysis of Family Policies in Industrialized Countries

The State and the Family: A Comparative Analysis of Family Policies in Industrialized Countries


In a number of industrialized countries, on the assumption that fertility remains at or close to present levels, populations will start to decline, in some cases quite rapidly in the near to medium future. Many governments are alarmed by this prospect, especially since it goes hand in hand with a further and acute ageing of the population. From the fears in the 1930s about population and family decline, to the fears in the 1970s about over-population, and contemporary talk of 'family-friendly' policies, governments' attitudes towards and interventions in family policy have changed considerably. What is today referred to as family policy differs widely from the first forms of government support before the Second World War. This book argues that demographic changes have been a major force in bringing population and family issues on to the political agenda. The decline in fertility, the increase in divorce rates and lone-parenthood, and the entry of women into the labour force have all reduced the relevance of systems of state support aimed at traditional families. From this perspective, the author examines the changes that have affected families over the past 100 years, and the policies that have been adopted by different governments in response to these changes. Data from twenty-two industrialized countries are used to provide an original analysis of legislation, initiatives, and measures aimed at better supporting families. The book assembles arguments from demography, sociology, and economics to explain population policies, their origins and aims. It shows that despite major similarities across countries in the ways family policy has evolved, and in the ways governments have viewed and supported families, there are major dissimilarities shaped by country-specific events, ideologies, and circumstances. It concludes by drawing a typology of models of family policy bases on these inter-country differences.


The preparation of this book has spanned several years -- several years during which I have benefited from the encouragement and support of numerous colleagues and friends. First of all from the ex-Warden and Fellows of Nuffield College (Oxford). Their encouragement during the initial phases of this book has been greatly appreciated and has undoubtedly helped to sustain my motivation. To David Cox, John Goldthorpe, and their colleagues, my sincere gratitude. I am also most grateful to my colleagues at the Department of Applied Social Studies and Social Research in Oxford who have during the last two years repeatedly expressed their interest in this project. a warm thank-you to Stein Ringen whose support has been so appreciated, as well as his comments on an earlier version of this book. Acknowledgements also to Teresa Smith, Mavis McClean and Susan McRae for their very useful comments on a preliminary version, and to Jason Pearce of Oxford University Press.

My most sincere words go however to my family and close friends who have supported me throughout this project. and above all, my deepest thanks to Peter. His patience, support, and computer expertise, have all been faultless. in Alaska, during the long summer nights when the sun was refusing to set early, he spent hours with me improving the presentation of the manuscript. To him, my relatives, colleagues and friends, I am most indebted.

Anne Hélène Gauthier

Haines, July 1995.

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