Family policies

Social security investing in human capital

Changing demographics, low birthrates, and increasing women's participation in the workforce are some of the factors which are driving the need for societies to invest in human capital by adopting dynamic family policies in the area of social security.

What do family policies include?

Family policies cover not only compensation for the additional cost for having children through family allowances, but also maternity and paternity benefits, day care subsidies, as well as programmes to encourage women's participation in the workforce while balancing family needs.

There are two guiding models for the development of family policies, which are based on different ideologies. The first proposes the organization of family life and balancing work and children's education primarily as a parental responsibility, not the State's. The second is based on the view that a child is a citizen with individual rights: both parents and society are responsible for the child's development and well-being.

However, because all societies are undergoing significant changes and facing similar demographic, cultural, and economic challenges, there is likely to be an increasing degree of convergence in the objectives of these two models.

New social risks

With the break up of the traditional family social safety net, together with a changing work environment and the impacts of globalization, new social risks have emerged. These new risks have drawn attention to the limits of the existing social safety net and, as a response, the need for the state to adopt new social policies. Family policies can help societies meet these challenges, in particular by helping parents cope with the double burden of providing care for children while seeking to pursue a full professional career.

Developing countries face specific problems. Social protection schemes do not have the capacity to meet the ongoing challenges, and existing formal social security programmes are not adapted to a largely informal economy. It is believed that a better articulation of formal social security policies with the traditional family and community-based model could attenuate some of these problems.

Towards child-centred integrated family policies

Many factors point to the relevance of using child-centred, integrated family policies, which provide a balance between the role of the family and that of the community in the education of children and also between the interests of parents and children. Some of the factors are:

  • A growing consciousness of the lifelong impact on a child's future of inadequate or unstable care giving
  • A trend towards viewing education as an investment in human capital
  • A questioning of the division of work between men and women in the family
  • An awareness of the ongoing inequality between genders and the exclusion of children
  • The active involvement of international organizations in the area of children's rights

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