Family policy, contextual features, and public opinion
It has been discussed before that Western welfare states face similar demographic and socio-economic challenges in terms of new welfare needs, low fertility rates, and ageing societies (see Chapter 1 and 2). These challenges are accompanied by serious financing problems within the established branches of social security (e.g., healthcare and pension systems) and discussions concerning the future viability of the welfare state (e.g., Taylor-Gooby 2004; Bonoli 2005). Accordingly, the European Union has formulated clear policy goals for all member states in order to meet current and future challenges and to achieve social inclusion and cohesion. Among these goals are increasing fertility, raising employment participation of men and women, increasing gender equality, and reducing (child) poverty (European Commission 2007). Public support for families and especially measures supporting the reconciliation of paid work and family life are seen as a powerful means in helping to achieve these goals. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between policies promoting the dual-earner model of the family and different social outcomes, such as fertility (Castles 2003; Ferrarini 2006), child well-being (Kamerman et al. 2003), and women’s labor-market participation (Ferrarini 2006; Kangas and Rostgaard 2007).