The Costs of Children

The Costs of Children

Parenting and Democracy in Contemporary Europe

Edited by David G. Mayes and Mark Thomson

The expert contributors provide an assessment of how countries can handle the fair allocation of the costs of childcare. They look at the experience within Europe in recent years and show in particular how these interrelate with the objectives of improving income, employment and social inclusion. The book’s conclusion reveals that choice is the key ingredient as families have different views and different degrees of support available from their relatives. Income and social inclusion can provide choice but ironically employment does not always. An employment-based model can sometimes narrow people’s choices, particularly for people on low wages. The major concern is that most existing systems effectively discriminate against mothers.

Chapter 2: Social regimes and gender equality: childcare in the EU

Edited by David G. Mayes and Mark Thomson

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, family and gender policy


Since the mid-1990s, the European Union has recognised, particularly through its European Employment Strategy, that promoting ‘equal opportunities at work’ has not in itself been sufficient to raise female employment levels or pay across the EU (Duncan, 2002). Women remain less likely to be in paid work and, when they are employed, earn significantly less than men despite the enactment of European hard law, or directives, in the 1970s on equal pay for men and women, and on equal treatment in access to employment, vocational training and promotion.1 They are also more likely to work part-time, often as a way to balance work with family life, and frequently for less pay and fewer employment benefits. Women are, as a result, more at risk of poverty and tend to receive lower pensions in retirement. This chapter looks at one of the main causes of gender inequality in the labour market, the care of infants and young children. Although families today share household duties more equitably, and in this regard the decisions taken within the family unit appear more democratic, they still tend to revert to traditional gender roles when it comes to childcare in the home.

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