Families, Ageing and Social Policy

Families, Ageing and Social Policy

Intergenerational Solidarity in European Welfare States

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Chiara Saraceno

This important book offers valuable insights into the way in which social policies and welfare state arrangements interact with family and gender models. It presents the most up-to-date research in the field, based on a variety of national and comparative sources and using different theoretical and methodological approaches. The authors address different forms of support (care, financial, emotional) and employ a bi-directional perspective, exploring both giving and receiving across generations. They illustrate that understanding how generations interact in families helps to reformulate the way issues of intergenerational equity are discussed when addressing the redistributive impact of the welfare state through pensions and health services.

Chapter 5: Intergenerational Relations Within the Family and the State

Harald Künemund

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, sociology and sociological theory, welfare states


Harald Künemund INTRODUCTION The ageing of societies is a major challenge of the next decades. For that reason, many countries have already implemented pension and health care reforms to reduce welfare state spending for the elderly in the near future. Such measures seem to be justified not only because the elderly today are quite well-off, but also because a strong welfare state is assumed to reduce the willingness of families to provide financial support and services to their aged parents. This relationship has been called the ‘crowding-out’ hypothesis – the state crowds out family obligations and erodes private intergenerational solidarity. Substituting private for public support seems to be an appealing alternative from this point of view. Demographic change, however, has tremendous consequences not only for the welfare state, but also for the family. The increase in life expectancy and the decline in the average number of children result in family structures described as ‘beanpole families’ (Giarrusso et al. 1996): families ‘with strikingly similar numbers in each age category starting from children and adolescents through those above the age of 60’ (Bengtson 2001, p. 5). The decreasing number of children of the ‘baby boomers’ as well as the increasing number of singles will most probably result in a lack of potential caregivers within families – namely, daughters and daughters-in-law. Whether the crowding-out hypothesis is correct and whether families will be able and willing to take over in the future are therefore important questions that need to be clarified. The empirical...

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