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Over the last three decades, in sharp contrast with the overall motion of the Welfare State in high-income countries, family policy has been expanding rather than retrenching. In this motion, family policy regimes seem to progressively converge towards the Earning Carer Model and the Swedish blueprint – which is characterized by high spending for public childcare services and a more egalitarian share of leave between parents. This convergence seems also to foster increasing female labour market participation rates. Against this backdrop, the main contribution of this paper is to discuss the evolution of family policy employing a Polanyian framework mutuated from the Great Transformation. Following this analytical approach, we suggest that family policy expansion can be understood in accordance to Welfare State and political economy developments as generating two opposite movements. On the one hand, family policy expansion – coherently with Welfare State retrenchment – seems to provide further incentives for mothers to more easily accept low salaries in the service-based economy. On the other hand, it partially contributes to liberate mothers from care-work. The first interpretation sees family policy yet as another tool to foster neoliberal capitalism, while the second considers family policy expansion instrumental to support working parents with young children in meeting increasing care costs. Both phenomena interplay, however the heavy weight of welfare state retrenchment suggests that the first movement is stronger and more decisive than the second.


  • Family Policies
  • Great Transformation
  • Welfare-State
  • Political Economy
  • Care
Emanuele Ferragina
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