Doing Better for Families? The role of family policy in demographic change


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Presentation by Olivier Thévenon on the occasion of the public hearing on The role of family policy in demographic change on 21.03.2011

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  • Family policy has to be multi-faceted to achieve a range of interdependent objectives.
  • no country significantly outperforms or underperforms the others in all outcome areas. Nordic countries generally have significantly better family outcomes than the OECD average. France and the Netherlands also record relatively good performances.
  • 19 out of the 34 OECD countries have father-specific leave entitlements (paternity or parental leave quotas), but the number of weeks is limited.
  • The issue of « optimal » design of leave, childcare support, financial support is guided by the question: how to combine good outcomes for children, parental employment, fertility and gender equity. To think about “optimal” combination about leave (parental care) entitlements and the provision of formal care services, one need to know whether parental (maternal) employment is good/bad for children. The small negative associations of early maternal employment with children’s outcomes are largely observed among children in intact families or in families with parents with high levels of education. Children in these families are more likely to have parents who engage in stimulating parenting activies, hence they have more to lose when parents are in paid work than children from less advantaged backgrounds
  • OSH widely available in some OECD countries (Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary and Sweden). Returns from work after childcare are often low in the UK, Germany, or Denmark. They are comparatively high in Sweden or France, and in Hungary.
  • Economic development however partially explain cross-country differences in fertility trends since countries with comparable levels of GDP per capita often achieve different fertility levels.
  • in most countries, public spending on family benefits and education is concentrated on the phase of school education rather than during early childhood.
  • Doing Better for Families? The role of family policy in demographic change

    1. 1. Doing Better for Families? The role of family policy in demographic change - 21 march 2011 Olivier Thévenon OECD, Social Policy Division European Economic and Social Committee
    2. 2. Family Policies in OECD countries: A diversity of aims <ul><li>Poverty reduction and income maintenance of families </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting early childhood development </li></ul><ul><li>Fostering parental (female) employment </li></ul><ul><li>Improving gender equity </li></ul><ul><li>Larger recognition of interdependence of inequality with poverty-alleviation </li></ul><ul><li>Enabling people to have children at the time they want (Raising birth rates?) </li></ul><ul><li>=> Policies aim at reducing potential conflicts between these issues </li></ul>
    3. 3. Key work, family and child outcomes Source: OECD (2011), Doing Better for Families , OECD, Paris.
    4. 4. But women work part-time more frequently (2008) Source: OECD Family Database
    5. 5. Gender gap in employment rates remain large Source: OECD Family Database
    6. 6. Maternal employment decreases with number of children Source: OECD Family Database
    7. 7. Fertility rates are higher where female employment rates are also higher 1980 2009 Source: OECD Family Database
    8. 8. Variable “Investments” in families Source: OECD Family Database
    9. 9. In-kind spending for families have almost doubled since 1990. Source: OECD (2011), Doing Better for Families , OECD, Paris.
    10. 10. Various profiles of spending over childhood Source: OECD (2011), Doing Better for Families , OECD, Paris.
    11. 11. Variable Parental Leave Policies 1. Numbers refer to the total of weeks of parental leave that women can take after maternity leave Source: OECD (2011), Doing Better for Families , OECD, Paris.
    12. 12. Father-specific entitlements are limited Source: OECD (2011), Doing Better for Families , OECD, Paris.
    13. 13. Childrens’ enrolment rates in formal care Source: OECD Family Database
    14. 14. Proportion of children aged 6 to 11 years attending OSCH services , 2008 Source: OECD Family Database
    15. 15. Family Policy Patterns in OECD countries Source: Thévenon (2011), « Family Policies in OECD countries: A Comparative Analysis », Population and Development Review , 37(1):57-87.
    16. 16. Which policies to enhance child development? <ul><li>Is maternal employment conflictual with child well-being? : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Maternal employment within the 6 months after childbirth can have a negative impact, but the association is small and not universally observed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The relation is smaller for parents with low levels of educational attainment and is more likely to be counterbalanced by the positive association of maternal income and formal childcare participation. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both formal childcare participation and parenting activities are often more significant than maternal employment in determining cognitive and behavioural outcomes of children. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Formal childcare and pre-school participation generally is positively associated with cognitive development of children </li></ul><ul><li>Making workplace practices more conducive to breastfeeding (e.g. via part-time work, breastfeeding facilities or extending maternity leave) may have positive effects on child development. </li></ul>
    17. 17. Promoting female employment and gender equality <ul><li>Long (low paid) leave have negative impact on labour market outcomes of the most vulnerable (low skilled) women. </li></ul><ul><li>Combining different elements, possibly including greater opportunities for flexible use of leave, increased payment rates for shorter duration, and an increase in the non-transferable paternal entitlement to paid leave will increase chances of more equal leave sharing between mothers and fathers. </li></ul><ul><li>Financial support for (public and private) childcare providers and parents is key to reduce barrier to employment participation for many parents with young children </li></ul><ul><li>Increase the provision of Out-of-School-Hours care services which are still in a developmental stage (not in Sweden, Hungary or France). </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitate transition to full-time work after a period of part-time work would further reduce family poverty risks and promote labour supply and gender equity. </li></ul>
    18. 18. What drives fertility trends? <ul><li>Fertility trends are influenced by social norms, economic cost of children, migrations, economic development/fluctuations and policies. </li></ul><ul><li>At high GDP levels, further economic development is likely to stimulate a slight increase of fertility rates. </li></ul><ul><li>Steeper increases in fertility rates are observed in countries where the participation of women in the labour market have significantly risen and contributed to economic growth.  </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, the impact of economic development per se might be small, unless accompanied by better opportunities for women to  combine work with family </li></ul><ul><li>Fertility rates respond positively to increase in income transfers to families, extension of paid leave and childcare services </li></ul>
    19. 19. Conclusion: what works best? <ul><li>Investing in early childhood can be positive for child development, female employment, gender equity and fertility. </li></ul><ul><li>Positive interaction between these outcomes if parental employment is accompanied by reasonably short and well-paid leave individual entitlements, expansion of childcare facilities, tax design that guarantees economic return from work and more flexible workplace practices (=> think about policy tools all together!) </li></ul><ul><li>Continuity of support over childhood: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Increase spending in early childhood to reduce difference in investments for children attending pres-schools or compulsory education; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensure that childcare services are available when leave benefits run out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Support should not stop when children enter to school: OSH and flexible working time should be promoted. </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Thank you for your attention! More information: <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>OECD (2011), Doing Better for Families , OECD, Paris, released the 28th of April. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>OECD Family Database: </li></ul></ul></ul>