Family policy in high-income countries: Five decades of development

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Series Details Volume 28, Number 3, Pages 255–270
Publication Date July 2018
ISSN 1461-7269
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This article empirically traces trends in family policy in 23 high-income countries since the 1960s. A range of data on income supports for families with children, family-related leave and early childhood education and care are brought together and analysed.

The results show that family policy has developed by layering, in terms of both content and time period. A ‘foundational phase’ is characterised by investment in cash and tax allowances for families and employment leave for mothers, while a ‘consolidation phase’ sees states adding to their family policy portfolio, especially through the diversification of family-related leave and augmentation of child-related care services, increasing their overall family policy expenditure and continuing to support families financially but with a preference to direct this through the tax system.

There is no inexorable development path though, either within or across countries. A layering development pattern suggests that analysis of family policy over time needs to be oriented to examining both continuity and change and, as the conclusion makes clear, there are many fruitful lines of further research.

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