Diminished Rights: Danish Lone Mother Families in International Context

By Valerie Polakow; Therese Halskov et al. | Go to book overview

SEVEN
Conclusion: Policy and practice
recommendations

The lone mothers, whose stories of struggle and survival are told in this book, are neither exceptional nor unique. Rather their lives mirror the lives of many other low-income mothers in Denmark, where despite strong social insurance policies, families that are poor and female-headed are not faring well; and even more troubling, face decreasing social supports. The discourse of equality in Danish society serves to further stigmatize vulnerable lone mothers, who stand as living icons of ‘failure’ – because they appear not to have benefited from the well-praised public policies and practices designed to integrate them into civic and public life. They are perceived as ‘problems’ precisely because they failed to ‘make it’ within a universal society. However, it is clear that a large gap exists between universalism in theory and in practice, and that for vulnerable lone mothers the ‘caring’ obligations of the state are receding. Our study has uncovered many disturbing facets of welfare policies on-the-ground: a significant number of lone mothers and their children live on the outer periphery of equality facing economic hardships, social isolation and personal deprivations, experiences that stand in sharp contrast to the internal and international perceptions of the Danish welfare state.

The growing life disparities between those who are members of this new underclass and the rest of society is dramatic. Such inequality points to the urgent need to implement comprehensive structural changes with extended and targeted supports for marginalized groups. The findings of our qualitative study make visible the lives of those living in the shadows of universalism, and we hope that by shining a spotlight on the life-worlds of poor women and their children, we may inject an urgency and ‘truth-telling’ into the discourse about the social responsibilities of a welfare society and the impact of its social policies.

As we consider the major obstacles to family stability and independence emerging from our study, there are many spaces for intervention requiring vital changes at both local and national levels

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