Parenting and Democracy in Contemporary Europe
Edited by David G. Mayes and Mark Thomson
Chapter 4: Childcare politics and the Norwegian fertility ‘machine’
‘Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wants to maintain the birth rate […] “Norway is right at the European top with a fertility rate near 2. This is a good contribution and one reason why it is going so well in Norway”’. Given the current state of low fertility in Europe, the role of government policy in supporting childbearing has received considerable scholarly attention (e.g. Gauthier, 2007; Hoem, 2008; Letablier et al., 2009; McDonald, 2000; Neyer and Andersson, 2008; Thévenon and Gauthier, 2011). While there is some dispute over the impact of family policies on fertility, many consider institutional reform as critical. The new family context of fertility decisions – in particular the mass entrance of women into the labour market – has created new needs and risks, changing the relative costs of having children. Some scholars maintain that to reverse low fertility involves ‘inventing a new machine’; in other words, a new social contract is needed (McDonald, 2002, p. 435). According to Morgan (2003), societies that respond to the legitimate needs of their citizens and invest in the next generation are likely to approach replacement levels of fertility of 2.1 children per woman.
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