Handbook of Family Policy
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Handbook of Family Policy

Edited by Guðný B. Eydal and Tine Rostgaard

The Handbook of Family Policy examines how state and workplace policies support parents and their children in developing, earning and caring. With original contributions from 44 leading scholars, this Handbook provides readers with up-to-date knowledge on family policies and family policy research, taking stock of current literature as well as providing analyses of present-day policies, and where they should head in the future.
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Chapter 15: Family policies in the Nordic countries: aiming at equality

Guðný Björk Eydal, Tine Rostgaard and Heikki Hiilamo

Abstract

The core aims of the policies aimed at families with children in the Nordic countries are twofold: to work for equality between children by ensuring that all children can enjoy a good and safe childhood regardless of family form and/or the social situation of their families and to enhance gender equality by enabling both parents to work and care. The chapter by Eydal, Rostgaard and Hiilamo discusses the main characteristics of contemporary family policies in the Nordic countries and asks if the family policies have reached this twofold aim, by investigating outcomes, fertility rates, labour market participation of parents as well as child poverty. The chapter takes stock of the Nordic literature on family policy and is based on policy documents and comparative statistics. Results show that parents are enabled to take on paid work, and active labour market policies and gender equality policies support the extensive care and family policies in this regard. However, the findings also show that while the Nordic family policy model does support the dual earner/dual carer model, it also contributes to gender segregation in the labour market. Despite the strong emphasis on providing care from both parents, Nordic fathers still take only a minority of the paid parental leave. Hence, ensuring childcare from both parents and providing both parents with opportunities to reconcile work and family is still an ongoing mission and far from being accomplished. Ensuring children’s equality through the family benefit system has been the other main goal of the Nordic family policies in line with the emphasis on equal income distribution in the Nordic welfare model and despite the relatively good outcomes of the Nordic countries in comparative research on child poverty, there are still groups of children that have not been ensured good and safe childhoods.

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