Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

FP5

IPROSEC Streszczenie raportu

Project ID: HPSE-CT-1999-00031
Źródło dofinansowania: FP5-HUMAN POTENTIAL
Kraj: United Kingdom

Comparing family policy actors

The papers in the third issue in the series reported on the findings from the elite interviews with political, economic and civil society actors in the IPROSEC project countries. The interviews were designed to investigate the policy process and develop a greater understanding of national policy responses to sociodemographic change. The authors compared the involvement of different actors in family policy and analysed their accounts of how policy is formulated and implemented in different national contexts.

In his discussion of political actors, Paul Byrne acknowledged the impact of party politics on policy development. Legitimacy of state intervention in family life and policy focus were presented as possible explanations for cross-national variations. Despite the overall diversity between countries, he identified two common strands with respect to family policy: competing ideologies and national policy styles. Across the IPROSEC countries, virtually all parties of the right advocate the traditional family model as the cornerstone of a stable society, particularly where the Catholic Church is strongly entrenched. They support universalistic approaches to family welfare. Parties of the left are more likely to prioritise issues of work–life balance and gender equality, a targeted approach to benefits and support for de-institutionalised family forms, even though conventional family units are perceived as a useful way of transferring some of the welfare burden away from the state. Despite similarities, in terms of policy styles, in the perception that political actors have of the inadequacy of policy co-ordination, only in very few cases could policy thinking be said to be joined up. The conclusion to the paper noted a wide consensus among political actors that family policy can be an important instrument for achieving other policy objectives, including social cohesion and the rolling back of the state as a major funder of welfare.

Peter Ackers’ paper on economic actors assessed the contributions made by employers’ representatives and trade unions to family policy. Although substantial numbers of women were employed in all IPROSEC countries, national approaches were found to be ranged along a continuum between those where gender and employment policies are regarded as separate spheres (southern Europe), those where linking policies are emerging (Germany and the United Kingdom) and those where substantial integration already exists (France and Sweden). Major differences in workplace attitudes and approaches to family policy across and within countries were attributed to welfare policies, the perceived legitimacy of intervention in family life, changing family structures and gender roles, the policy environment and employer relations at national and workplace levels. Ackers argued that the business case for harnessing human resources through family-friendly policies only works for the more skilled and highly educated categories of employees in full-time protected employment, and that state-initiated social regulation is needed to generalize and institutionalise such policies and to encourage employers to take a broader view of their employees’ family responsibilities. In conclusion, he cautioned against over-regulation, particularly of working and opening hours, which merely served to reinforce gender segregation by denying women access to the labour market, and he warned against flexibility purely on employers’ terms, which reinforced insecurity for men, women and their families.

Louise Appleton’s paper considered national variations in the roles played by the civil society sector in the family policy process and related them to social perceptions of the legitimacy of policy intervention in family life, the competing or complementary roles of the economic and political sectors, and the functions of not-for-profit organizations as lobbyists or specialists in policy implementation and service delivery. Despite the great diversity within and between countries of civil society organizations in the area of family policy, several patterns were identified among the IPROSEC countries. At one end of the spectrum is France, with its active and well integrated civil society sector working in partnership with the state in the policy process. At the other, are the candidate and southern European countries, where the sector is less well developed and less influential, with the significant exception of the powerful, though declining, role played by the Catholic Church.

The concluding paper, also by Louise Appleton, identified two main policy network models among the countries in the project. The first is integrated, with close co-operation between policy actors, although only in France are the roles of policy actors fully harmonized. In the second model, the three sectors are perceived as separate entities with distinct family policy agendas, minimum co-operation and varying degrees of segregation. As in the analysis of the civil society sector, most countries fall between the extremes. France and Sweden can be characterized as having the most comprehensive approach to policy integration. Germany, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom and Poland have a partially integrated arrangement. Spain and Greece are minimalist in their approach and come closer to the segregated model, while Estonia and Hungary are aspiring to shift towards a more integrated approach.

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