A Review of Family Demographics and Family Policies in the Nordic Countries
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Original versionBaltic Journal of Political Science 2014, 3:50-66
Family policies in the Nordic countries gain international attention.1 An important reason for this is that they appear to produce good results: the Nordic countries combine comparatively high levels of fertility with high female employment rates and low rates of child poverty. Feminists, anti-poverty activists, and social liberals generally tend to look to the Nordic countries with curiosity and admiration (Lister, 2009). Recently it has also been argued that the Nordic countries not only produce social equality and high levels of living, but also enact active policies targeted at families that enhance productivity and lay the foundation for economic success (e.g. Esping-Andersen, 2002). Such policies simultaneously encourage women to work outside the home, and create good conditions for children’s early education. Working mothers improve economic efficiency, broaden the tax base, and improve household income, thus reducing child poverty. It is hoped that early childhood education will create more equal life chances for children and secure a productive labour force for the future (cf. Esping-Andersen, 2002; Morel, Palier, & Palme, 2012). Whether viewed from the perspective of gender equality, child welfare, or social investment, then, Nordic family policies appear to have some very useful features.