Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe
Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Jørgen Goul Andersen, Torben Fridberg and Kristen Ringdal
Chapter 6: Who Should Care for the Children? Support for Government Intervention in Childcare
Bart Meuleman and Heejung Chung INTRODUCTION In recent decades, women in Europe have become increasingly active in the labour market (Daly, 2000). The end of what has been termed the male breadwinner regime (Lewis, 1992) has had considerable repercussions for day-to-day family life. Female participation in the labour market is recognized as a driving force behind the radical changes in women’s position in society, and has also been shown to play an important role in decreasing family poverty by providing additional monetary resources (Gornick et al., 1998). Yet at the same time, rising female labour market participation rates also present severe challenges to the reconciliation of work and family life. Perhaps one of the most tangible manifestations of the changed work–family balance is a growing need for childcare among doubleincome couples with children (Lewis, 2001). European countries have responded in very different ways to the increased demand for childcare. In this respect, Bettio and Plantenga (2004) distinguish between various care regimes within Europe, relying on different principal actors (state, market or family), care modalities (formal or informal) and incentive structures. Despite strong international variation in the organization and use of childcare provisions, the European Union recognizes the growing importance of childcare services as a means to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life. At the Barcelona Summit in 2002, the Council of Europe urged the member states at short notice to considerably improve the access to childcare services. Member States should remove disincentives to female labour force participation...
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