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Presentation on theme: "FAMILIES AND FAMILY POLICIES: DEVELOPING A HOLISTIC POLICY AGENDA Sheila B. Kamerman."— Presentation transcript:


2 Families & Family Policies2 FAMILIES AND FAMILY POLICY Public commitment to children and their families varies across countries and over time. New initiatives are needed to cope with new risks and new problems Recently many countries have explored specialized and innovative benefits designed to strengthen families with children.

3 Families & Family Policies3 FAMILIES AND FAMILY POLICY Purpose of these developments: –Increasing women’s labor force attachment –Facilitating the reconciliation of work and family life –Reducing child poverty –Strengthening children’s rights to education and care –Enhancing child protection, development, and well-being.

4 Families & Family Policies4 FAMILIES AND FAMILY POLICY In some countries, these goals were incorporated into a holistic approach to an explicit family policy. In others, the focus remained more categorical, and the family policy more implicit, but still guided by an increased effort at enhancing child well-being.

5 Families & Family Policies5 FAMILIES AND FAMILY POLICY Organization of paper: Defining family policy. Illustrating what an explicit family policy looks like. Illustrating several important family and child policy initiatives that could be part of a policy package in Hong Kong. Conclusions

6 Families & Family Policies6 What is family policy? Family policy is what government does to and for children and their families. Characteristic of family policy internationally is concern for all children and their families, not just poor families and families with problems.

7 Families & Family Policies7 What is family policy (cont’d)? Family policy may be explicit or implicit. As a subcategory of social policy, family policy can be viewed as: –A policy field, –A policy instrument, or –A criterion by which all social policies can be assessed.

8 Families & Family Policies8 What is family policy (cont’d)? Family policy has 4 major characteristics: –A view of the family as a central institution in a society. –A definition of family that allows for a variety of types, usually at least one adult and one child. –A definition of policy that assumes a diversity and multiplicity of policies rather than a single monolithic, comprehensive legislative act.

9 Families & Family Policies9 What is family policy (cont’d)? Family policy instruments include: –Cash benefits –Services –Laws

10 Families & Family Policies10 What is family policy (cont’d)? The major family policy instruments are: –Income transfers –Early childhood care and education services –Time for parenting, including paid and job protective leaves from employment –Family law –Personal social services and family support programs –Housing allowances and policies –Maternal or family and child health services.

11 Families & Family Policies11 What is family policy? Today the concept of family policy is a global one. Families fulfill essential roles in: –Reproduction, –Socialization, –Early education, –Promotion of good health, and –Preparation for adulthood But families are changing and the need for care and care services is increasing.

12 Families & Family Policies12 What is family policy (concluded)? To carry out traditional roles as well as new roles, families require help from government. We need to know more about: –Family changes, –Responses of governments to new family needs and problems –Which family policies may make a difference.

13 Families & Family Policies13 Countries with Explicit Family Policy Sweden –Historically Sweden’s family policy has been focused on: Protecting children, Redistributing income, Compensating for the economic costs of rearing children, Giving people the economic resources to have children when they want to, Promoting gender equity, Facilitating the reconciliation of work and family life. Policy based on principles of universality and individual rights.

14 Families & Family Policies14 Countries with Explicit Family Policy- Sweden Swedish family policy Includes: Family cash benefits, Income-tested housing allowances, 18-month parental leave from employment, Advance payment of child maintenance to custodial parents, Protective and supportive services, and High quality public ECEC

15 Families & Family Policies15 Countries with Explicit Family Policy - Sweden Sweden –2 current challenges Increasing difficulty for immigrant youth to obtain jobs Segregation of native born persons from those perceived as foreign.

16 Families & Family Policies16 Countries with Explicit Family Policy - France Exceptionally generous cash benefits and ECEC services. –5 objectives have dominated French family policy Solidarity Pro-natilism Social justice Protecting the well-being of children, and Protecting parental choice with regard to parents choosing to work outside the home or remaining at home to rear children.

17 Families & Family Policies17 Countries with Explicit Family Policy - France –Most important family benefit is universal family allowance Supplemented by income-tested categorical cash benefits. –Still doesn’t cover first children under the basic family allowance. –Primary objective Horizontal redistribution of income and wealth from those with no children to those with children. Easing women’s burden in balancing family and employment.

18 Families & Family Policies18 Countries with Explicit Family Policy - France French family policy also includes a large service component: Universal voluntary and free public preschool system for all 3- to 6- years old, and almost half 2- year olds, covering the full school day –Extended coverage for children with parents working a longer day Extensive subsidies for infant and child care An extensive maternal and child health service.

19 Families & Family Policies19 Family Policy Developments and Innovations Term “ social protection” includes: –Government actions that provide individuals and families with a defined minimum standard of living and protection against traditional social risks –The concept of social protection provides a policy framework for dealing holistically with poverty and vulnerability.

20 Families & Family Policies20 Family Policy Developments and Innovations (cont’d) Child-conditioned social protection includes those policies that are contingent on the presence of children: –Social insurance, –Social assistance, –Child-related demogrants, –Social services, and –Social infrastructure.

21 Families & Family Policies21 Family Policy Developments and Innovations (cont’d) Social Protection in Hong Kong –Scholars describe the state as playing a major role in Hong Kong, as direct provider of education, health care, housing, and cash benefits for the poor. –Missing from a family policy agenda are: Child benefits, Special child-conditioned benefits, Some sense of the adequacy of these benefits, More extensive ECEC services, ECEC services for children under age 3, and More extensive parental leave.

22 Families & Family Policies22 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package Income Transfers, in particular: –Asset-based Policy and Child-development Accounts. Hypothesis is that providing assets before a crisis occurs would lead to: Less family breakdown, Fewer school dropouts, and Less movement of orphans to becoming street children.

23 Families & Family Policies23 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package (cont’d) Child Trust Funds –Goal: to strengthen savings habits, help redistribute assets, and educate people to the need for and value of savings. –Unclear whether it will alleviate child policy

24 Families & Family Policies24 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package Conditional Cash Transfers –New form of cash transfers that focuses on improving: The health, education, and well-being of poor children and their families –Requires that the receipt of the grants be contingent on: Enrolling and maintaining children in school, Obtaining preventive health care, and In some countries, participating in other social services, and parental employment.

25 Families & Family Policies25 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package Major questions currently debated: –Whether policy is limited to the more affluent countries or can be adopted by poor countries as well. –Whether provision without conditions would accomplish the same objectives at lower costs. –What is the role of personal social services?.

26 Families & Family Policies26 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package (cont’d) Early childhood education and care services (ECEC) –Services for children below compulsory school age involving elements of both physical care and education. –Apart from significant contribution to cognitive stimulation, socialization, child development, and early education, an essential service to employed parents.

27 Families & Family Policies27 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package (cont’d) Early childhood education and care services –Include a wide range of part-day, full-school- day, full-work-day programs under education, health, and social welfare auspices. –Are funded and delivered in a variety of ways in both the public and the private sectors. –Are voluntary and take-up is high where the programs are free or the fees are very modest, and the quality adequate.

28 Families & Family Policies28 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package Early childhood education and care services (ECEC) –Acknowledged in Hong Kong too, as essential foundation for child development –Current stress on: Improving quality, Enhancing staff qualifications, and Strengthening the links between preschool and primary school.

29 Families & Family Policies29 Possible Components of a Family Policy Package (cont’d) Early childhood education and care services: –Almost universal coverage for 3- to 6- year olds but largely part-day –Unclear how care is provided for the rest of the working day. –Inadequate data regarding infant and toddler care.

30 Families & Family Policies30 Conclusions Difficult to obtain a coherent picture of what is provided to enhance the wellbeing of Hong Kong children and their families, with what consequences. Among initiatives mentioned are: –Family commission, –Family advisory council, –Family impact analyses and reports, and –Family-friendly policies. Biggest gap is a holistic picture of the situation of the children and the policies designed to respond to their needs and problems.

31 Families & Family Policies31 Conclusions (cont’d) Family policy is a holistic approach to evaluating social policies affecting children and their families. A holistic approach to developing a coherent policy agenda remains to be developed in Hong Kong. Even without that it would be useful to make the policy package that exists more visible.

32 Families & Family Policies32 Conclusions No one policy can achieve all the desired goals: –Reducing child policy, –Increasing capital investment, –Protecting children’s rights, –Strengthening families, and –Enhancing child development and well-being. An explicit family policy may not be the answer but making the condition of children and their families more visible and assessing the policies affecting them would help if the goal is to achieve greater coherence.


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