Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family-Related Policies in Southern African Countries: Are Working Parents Reaping Any Benefits?

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family-Related Policies in Southern African Countries: Are Working Parents Reaping Any Benefits?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In a developing world context, combating poverty and improving the quality of human life are constant items on the social development agenda. Far from being model welfare states, some African countries have, however, made modest strides towards improving the social security and empowerment of their citizens. Family-related policy has proved to be one of the avenues followed in the social development endeavours of some African countries. These family-related policies often relate to a multitude of features of family life and are seldom combined to constitute a single overarching family policy. Instead, in many countries policies that impact family life are included in several different legislation documents. This is one of the reasons why many social scientists have indicated that it is a complex challenge to conceptualise and assess family-related policies (cf. Anttonen and Sipilä, 1996; Hantrais, 1994; Neyer, 2003). This article concerns itself more specifically with family-related policies, which provide working parents with choices and options in reconciling responsibilities associated with employment and family life. In this regard, the attention will fall in particular on the different Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states.

As is the case in most countries around the globe, socio-economic as well as demographic changes and transformation in the SADC region continue to impact the complex and dynamic relationship between paid work and family Ufe. Dancaster and Baird (2008, p. 22) rightly argue that this has ". . .contributed to the emergence of work and family integration as an issue of serious concern for individuals, societies, organizations and governments." The question thus arises as to how governments in the SADC region have responded in terms of policy documents and legislation in order to aid working parents to reconcile employment and family life. This article attempts to give an answer to this question. The discussion is structured in the following way. As point of departure, a brief introduction is given of the Southern African Development Community. This is followed by a conceptual and theoretical overview of the key policy indicators, i.e., maternity health protection; parenthood-related leave (such as maternity, paternity and parental leave); and child care services. Thereafter, the different SADC countries are compared based on an analysis of the family-related policies in these countries. Finally, recommendations are made with regard to matters that need attention in drafting policies that may enhance the work and family life integration of working parents with young children.

SADC: WHO, WHAT, AND WHY?

SADC is an inter-governmental organisation consisting of fifteen member states in the Southern African region. These member states are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Although SADC came into being on August 17, 1992, its history can be traced back to its forerunner namely the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) which was established in April 1980. The primary goals of SADC (2009) are to advance socio-economic integration and political collaboration among its members. Yet, in the past collaboration on all levels has proved to be a challenge hi light of the socio-economic diversity among the SADC member states. Although poverty is an undeniable reality in all fifteen of the SADC countries, some of these countries are worse off than others. The GDP per capita in United States dollars (US$) for Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is, for example, US$200 and US$300 respectively, while the average annual per capita income is US$10,100 in South Africa, US$13,900 in Botswana and US$19,800 in the Seychelles. The SADC countries also vary considerably in terms of their gross domestic product (GDP), which ranges from US$ 1 . …

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