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 13: Redistributing the costs of childcare and its democratic implications

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


Welfare policy is fundamentally about redistribution, whether it is redistribution within a family, or more widely across society. Such redistribution may require financial transactions or just the use of time. It may involve simply a transfer, where no current or future recompense is required or it may involve the accumulation of credits or debts, where the initial transfer has to be repaid or otherwise recompensed. Deciding how to go about this is one of the most fundamental features of the democratic system. Childcare and the fair allocation of the costs of having children is an archetypal example of this process and reflects one of the most fundamental and indeed intractable features of redistribution, as it deals with aspects that are fundamentally gender and aged based. Young children can neither look after themselves nor pay for this to be done. Moreover they are not capable of taking decisions about how that care should be organised even though they will be heavily affected by those decisions. Only women can bear children.

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