Family and the Welfare State in Europe

Family and the Welfare State in Europe

Intergenerational Relations in Ageing Societies

Agnes Blome, Wolfgang Keck and Jens Alber

This insightful book explores the role of both the family and the state in shaping the living conditions of the young and old in Europe. It provides a comparative theoretical and empirical analysis of age-related policies and welfare arrangements in Germany, France, Italy and Sweden.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Agnes Blome, Wolfgang Keck and Jens Alber

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

Extract

The demographic transition and what it means for the future development of intergenerational relationships has increasingly become a subject of public debate. Many authors think that society will be shaped in the future by conflicts between the generations. Our study demonstrates what we know empirically about the living conditions and patterns of relationships between various age groups in differently constituted welfare states. Our central question is how the state and the family shape generational living conditions, and how this interaction affects the attitudes of age groups towards social policy in four strategically selected countries: Germany, France, Italy and Sweden. A comparison of these countries is intended to provide information about how differently intergenerational relations can be organized, and which strategies hold out promise for the future of rapidly ageing societies. The coupling of falling birthrates with rising life expectancy has led to a significant ageing of society nearly everywhere in Europe (United Nations 1956; Grundy 1996; Kaufmann 2005). As of 2001, women in the EU were bearing only 1.5 children on average,1 while newborns today have 78-year life expectancies. Both trends alter the intergenerational structure, so that by 2030 the share of those over 65 relative to the share of the working-age population will increase to about 38 per cent, as compared to 24 per cent today. These trends pose new challenges for European societies. They include the need to find sustainable financing for social security and to adapt public policies to the structural changes in the family. The...