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 6: The Care of the Elderly

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


This chapter compares public care-giving policies, but it also tries to estimate the care provided by family members and through informal social networks.1 Our core question is the extent to which public efforts to care for older persons either replace or complement familial efforts – and which care arrangements have emerged in each of the four countries as a consequence. There is hardly another area in which the demographic transition will have such extensive consequences as in the care of the elderly. To be sure, the number of grown children aged 45 to 65 who could care for their parents in old age will continue to increase slightly until 2030 (Häcker and Raffelhüschen 2007). But the number of the very aged, those most likely to be in need of care, increases disproportionately as well. From this it follows that for every person potentially in need of care there will be fewer potential caregivers over time who are available in the family – primarily daughters and daughters-in-law (Figure 6.1). The imbalance between care needs and the potential for providing care in the family is exacerbated by two further developments: 1) younger generations in general, and women who would provide most of the care in particular, are increasingly employed and thus have less time to care for their parents; and 2) older persons increasingly often live alone in their own households and cannot count on daily help being provided by their children. However, there are some countervailing tendencies. One can assume older...

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