The subject matter of this report is the recent reform of family policy in Ireland and Europe. Its purpose is both to identify the most significant changes which have been made in Europe in the last ten years and to compare developments in Ireland with those in a selected number of other countries. In particular, Ireland is compared with France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK). The time period covered by the study is the 1990s, with all the information updated to the middle of 2001. Family policy for the purposes of the study is defined in a broad way. The report covers the following policy domains: cash payments for families with children, the support of lone parent families, family-related taxation, reconciling work and family life, childcare, care of the elderly, family support services and children's rights. As well as tracing and comparing the changes in policy, the report also examines some of the impacts associated with family policy. Matters such as the effects of policy on family poverty, the redistribution of income, fertility rates and the employment participation of mothers are each considered. The implications of reform and the outstanding issues facing policy makers in Ireland are also discussed.
The report contains seven chapters as well as a brief introduction. The first chapter describes the historical development of family policy in Ireland, for the purpose especially of identifying the tradition and architecture of Irish social policy as it related to the family. The development of family policy in Europe is the subject matter of the second chapter, the goal being to identify similarities and differences in Ireland's approach to the family historically in comparison with developments elsewhere. Having identified the general state of family-related policy in Ireland and elsewhere up until the late 1980s-early 1990s, the next two chapters go on to cover reform and change in the 1990s. Chapter 3 focuses on Irish reforms whereas Chapter 4 details the most significant developments in France, Germany, Sweden and the UK. Chapter 5 turns to impacts associated with family policy, considering some evidence on horizontal redistribution, poverty alleviation, fertility rates and employment levels among women. The next chapter draws out some policy issues facing Ireland, focusing on topics which have been the subject of debate and review as well as those which this research identifies as key issues facing Irish social policy. A brief overview chapter draws the report to a close.
Report: Contemporary Family Policy in Ireland and Europe (PDF)