- Family policies in Scandinavia
- Caring for children in Europe: How childcare, parental leave and flexible work arrangements interact in Europe
- Flexible child care and Australian parents’ work and care decision-making
- Case Study
Families are the building blocks of society and they play critical roles in the economic and social well-being of a country. However, with the evolving economic and labour landscape, and the increasing number of women in the workforce, many developed countries such as Singapore are facing declining birth rates due to rising singlehood, growing number of childless families and the tendency to postpone marriage and childbearing. Young families also face challenges with regards to income, employment, inclusion, housing and the care and support of children.
Many governments around the world have adopted family support policies that help women to manage and combine both career and family as well as encourage fathers to play a greater role in parenthood. These policies often come in the form of subsidies or allowances (such as tax deduction, cash allowance to help meet direct costs of pregnancy, and assisted reproductive technology treatment) and other benefits to reduce the opportunity cost of childbearing (such as paid parental leave, subsidised childcare and after-school care, and family-friendly workplace practices including flexible working hours).
In Singapore, the government makes supporting parenthood a priority. It aims to provide a supportive and desirable environment for Singaporeans to get married, form families and raise children. To support Singaporeans’ aspirations of getting married and having children, the government is boosting its efforts by offering various benefits through the enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package, which includes providing more public housing and childcare facilities.
This resource guide presents relevant reports and studies that look at government policies and initiatives around the world that provide support to families with children.
Family policies in Scandinavia
The Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden, have been labelled as “caring states” and are known to be among the leaders in having policies that provide extensive support for families with children. These family policies are aimed at enabling parents to reconcile work and family, ensuring a more gender equal sharing of paid and unpaid work, and providing care solutions in the best interest of the child. This report defines “family policies” and explores how these countries develop and implement their social policies, including policies pertaining to parental leave, early childhood education and childcare.
Rostgaard, T. (2014, December). Family policies in Scandinavia. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id/11106.pdf
Caring for children in Europe: How childcare, parental leave and flexible work arrangements interact in Europe
This policy brief analyses how paid work and the care of children are reconciled by families in Europe. It discusses formal and informal childcare arrangements, provides an overview of parental leave schemes and labour market flexibility, and examines how childcare, parental leave and working time instruments are combined and used in a complementary way. It finds that most parents combine various reconciliation instruments and shows how particular childcare arrangements are related to parents’ preferences and norms, a child’s age, and labour market opportunities for parents.
Janta, B. (2014). Caring for children in Europe: How childcare, parental leave and flexible work arrangements interact in Europe. European Union – European Platform for Investing in Children. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from http://europa.eu/epic/studies-reports/docs/rr-554-dg-employment-childcare-brief-v-0-16-final.pdf
Flexible child care and Australian parents’ work and care decision-making</small>
This report takes a look at how Australian parents make decisions about work and care, particularly with shift work or inflexible job conditions. It finds that families, especially those working variable or non-standard hours, value access to flexible child care to meet their changing employment and family circumstances. The report highlights that formal child care has not kept up with the varied hours of the modern labour market, and thus families are having to adapt by changing their work hours to part-time, moving to non-variable shifts jobs, or taking time out of paid employment.
Flexible child care and Australian parents’ work and care decision-making. (2016, November). Australian Institute of Family Studies Research Report No. 37. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from https://aifs.gov.au/publications/flexible-child-care-and-australian-parents-work-and-care-decision-making/executive-summary
Sweden: Successful reconciliation of work and family life
Sweden is one of the most family-friendly countries in the world, with a family policy that is intended to support a “dual-earner family model” and ensure that both men and women have the same rights and obligations regarding family and work. Its financial family policy is aimed at: improving conditions for good living standards for all families with children; increasing freedom of choice and empowerment of parents; and promoting equality in parenthood between women and men. However, the country also has high income-taxes, a large share of which goes into providing work-life balance for its people.
Generous and flexible leave schemes
Sweden has the largest number of working mothers in the European Union and a high proportion of them use flexible working arrangements. Its “highly developed and flexible parental leave scheme” allows and encourages both mothers and fathers to spend time with their children, with each parent entitled to up to eight months of paid leave per child. Of this 16 months per child, parents receive 13 months of pay at 80 percent of the most recent income up to a ceiling of about €51,100 per year in 2016. The Swedish government also introduced a “Gender equality bonus” in 2008 as an economic incentive to encourage both mothers and fathers to share childcare equally.
High spending on family benefits
Apart from the generous and flexible leave schemes, Sweden also provides a range of financial measures to reduce the financial burdens on parents raising their children. These measures include: pregnancy benefit payable for a maximum of 50 days at 80 percent of the mother’s most recent income to expectant mothers who are unable to work because of the physically demanding nature of their jobs; temporary parental benefit paid at 80 percent of annual earnings for a sick child under the age of 12; and child allowance amounting to about €122 per month per child with supplements for large families ranging from about €17 for the second child to about €145 for the fifth and each additional child.
Affordable and high-quality universal childcare
All parents are guaranteed public childcare. These childcare facilities operate on a whole-day basis – open from 6.30am until 6.30pm. Children aged between three and six attend pre-school for free for up to 15 hours per week. The cost of childcare is heavily subsidised, with parents paying only 11 percent of the pre-school costs.
Sweden: Successful reconciliation of work and family life. (2016, January). European Union – European Platform for Investing in Children. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from http://europa.eu/epic/countries/sweden/index_en.htm
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