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 4: Childcare politics and the Norwegian fertility ‘machine’

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

Extract

‘Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wants to maintain the birth rate […] “Norway is right at the European top with a fertility rate near 2. This is a good contribution and one reason why it is going so well in Norway”’. Given the current state of low fertility in Europe, the role of government policy in supporting childbearing has received considerable scholarly attention (e.g. Gauthier, 2007; Hoem, 2008; Letablier et al., 2009; McDonald, 2000; Neyer and Andersson, 2008; Thévenon and Gauthier, 2011). While there is some dispute over the impact of family policies on fertility, many consider institutional reform as critical. The new family context of fertility decisions – in particular the mass entrance of women into the labour market – has created new needs and risks, changing the relative costs of having children. Some scholars maintain that to reverse low fertility involves ‘inventing a new machine’; in other words, a new social contract is needed (McDonald, 2002, p. 435). According to Morgan (2003), societies that respond to the legitimate needs of their citizens and invest in the next generation are likely to approach replacement levels of fertility of 2.1 children per woman.

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