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 2: Intergenerational Solidarity between State and Family

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


The primary intent of this chapter is to develop a conceptual framework for understanding the exchanges between generations. Three of these exchange relations are of particular importance: 1) the transfer of state benefits to younger and older persons; 2) the direct benefits and support provided between parents and children; and 3) the relationship between familial support and state benefits. These exchange relations serve to buffer shifting social risks during the life course. In the relationship between cohorts in the welfare state, exchange relations occur primarily through having the economically active segment of the population provide support for younger and older persons who cannot provide for themselves. In earlier times, this largely took place within the family; today it is increasingly provided both by state institutions and by associations in civil society. By defining the age limits, the welfare state has become the key institution that determines the rights and duties of various age groups (Kohli 1985). The mutual obligations to provide maintenance and support, in particular, play an important role in the intergenerational relations between parents and children. Inheritance also plays an increasing role due to the post-war increase in affluence (Bowles and Gintis 2002; Braun et al. 2002; Munnell and Sunden 2003). The mutual support that is provided is generally referred to as intergenerational solidarity. The term ‘solidarity’ is a euphemism, since mutual support between the generations is often not voluntarily provided but is based instead on normative pressure or legal duress (Land and Rose 1985; Marshall et al....

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