The gender specificity of institutionally framed intergenerational obligations in Europe

Chiara Saraceno, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung
Wolfgang Keck, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung

Several studies have highlighted the gender specific dimension of welfare states, inclusive of the fiscal system. This gender specificity may be more or less intense over time and across countries; it may increase gender asymmetry or on the contrary reduce it; it may be the outcome of provisions framed in gender neutral terms which ignore gender differences (e.g. in reproduction) and therefore penalize the bearers of the ignored difference, or on the contrary it may be framed in explicit reference to an ideal model of gender differences and gender arrangements. Our thesis is that, at least in contemporary welfare states, the gender dimension of welfare states is particularly visible, but at the same time also under renegotiation and change, with regard to expectations concerning gender specific intergenerational obligations: towards dependent children and towards dependent older parents. The paper will provide a comprehensive view on to what degree and through which institutional means the various EU countries, on the one hand, shape gender specific intergenerational obligations, and on the other hand, contribute to changing this gender specificity and its implicit and explicit assumptions concerning intergenerational obligations of men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. Our theoretical starting point is that policies shape gender differences and inequalities along two dimensions which are often conflated in analyses but which are conceptually and practically distinct: the degree of de-familialization and the degree of de-commodification. The latter may occur both through de-familization and on the contrary through forms of supported familialism. In order to map country specific policy frameworks, we define a range of policy indicators which are sensitive on these dimensions. By addressing a broad scope of policies areas (child care, education, fiscal regulations, elderly care, pension systems) we aim at identifying gendered policy regimes in Europe. In doing so, we extend previous research by making clearer the distinction between de-familialization and de-commodification and their possible outcomes and by considering both downward and upward obligations. Furthermore, differently from most existing research on gendered welfare states, which focuses on a limited number of western countries, we aim at including all EU 27 countries, at least for most dimensions.

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Presented in Session 83: Intergenerational family ties in Europe: Multiple linkages between individuals, families and social contexts