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MorganAndZippel_PaidToCare - K IMBERLY J MORGAN KATHRIN...

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KIMBERLY J. MORGAN KATHRIN ZIPPEL Paid to Care: The Origins and Effects of Care Leave Policies in Western Europe Abstract A number of European countries have adopted paid child care leaves and allowances in the name of parental choice and valuing care. We examine the origins and consequences of these policies in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, and Norway. Care leave poli- cies have been politically attractive to center-right governments seeking to fight unemployment, contain spending on child care, and appeal to parents struggling to balance work and family. Yet given the low benefits provided by these programs, choices for parents remain deeply constrained by gender and class. These policies also are likely to reinforce the traditional division of care work in the home. Temporary homemaking is being institutionalized as the norm for many women, who face potentially negative consequences for their earnings and long-term employment trajectories. While the United States has been busy in the past ten years dismantling its only system of public income supports for mothers, many countries in Western Europe have gone in the opposite direc- tion. In recent years, governments have created two- or three-year job leaves and/or child-rearing benefits that allow parents (almost entirely mothers) of young children to care for their own children at home and receive public funds to support them. These policies have been adopted in the name of valuing care work in the home and Social Politics Spring 2003 2003 Oxford University Press DOI: 10.1093/sp/jxg004
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50 Morgan and Zippel providing more choices for parents dealing with work–family con- flicts. The development of these policies has thus been part of larger debates in European societies over how best to reconcile work and family life. Care leaves and child-rearing benefits should be of interest to fem- inist students of the welfare state who have been engaged in debates over how public policy should treat caregivers and caregiving. There is now a large literature on the meaning of care and its heavily gen- dered dimensions, and on how to analyze the welfare state through the lens of care (Knijn and Ungerson 1997; Jenson and Sineau 2001; Meyer 2000). In both the public and private spheres, women perform most of the care work, which is usually either not remunerated or low-paid. Debates over how to improve this situation have tapped more fundamental questions about the goals of feminist theorizing and political action, given the difference-equality dilemma. For dif- ference feminists, policies rooted in an assumption of male and fe- male equality integrate women into the public sphere on male terms and impose unrealistic assumptions onto the reality of most women’s lives. Yet for equality feminists, difference-based policies perpetuate essentialist norms and existing stereotypes (Fraser 1994; Mansbridge 1990). Thus, although many feminists have assailed domestic labor as unpleasant, unfairly distributed between men and women, and a
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