Arnlaug Leira Working Parents and the Welfare State: Family Change and Policy Reform in Scandinavia.

Author:Gelder, Ulrike
Position:Book Review

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. viii + 182 pp ISBN 0521571294 (hbk) 40.00 [pounds sterling]

How do welfare states approach what is historically the most comprehensive change in family form? Leira is referring to mothers entering employment en masse. The consequence is that the traditional family, headed by the male breadwinner, has been replaced by the dual-earner family as the dominant family form. The book draws mainly on quantitative data from Western Europe. The shift towards the dual-earner family and the politicisation of childcare started in the Scandinavian countries earlier than in other welfare state societies, and because of this she uses Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden as her main frame of reference.

Leira analyses the interplay of family change and policy reform by using the concepts of employed parents as wage-workers, caters for children and citizens of welfare states. The focus is on whether policies responding to mothers' entry into the labour market serve to transcend or to consolidate the gendered division of paid and unpaid work. Chapter 2 introduces models of two parent families in respect of the reconciliation of work and care and briefly discusses typologies of welfare states. Yet, there is no introduction to any models of care or any acknowledgement of the varied components of childcare. Using the terms 'commodification' and 'decommodification', 'familisation' and 'defamilisation' in 'a more simplistic sense than suggested by McLaughlin and Glendinning, and Esping-Andersen' (p. 42) the author offers a two-dimensional model of the impact of childcare policies on parent-workers onto which the three sets of childcare policies are mapped. One dimension divides parents' labour into the 'commodified' and 'decommodified'. The other dimension offers three types of childcare: 'familised', 'defamilised/private' and 'defamilised/public'. The sometimes careless use of concepts like 'commodification'--for example by identifying situations where mothers (p. 40), fathers (p. 50) working parents (p. 43) or other women (p. 50) are 'commodified' or 'decommodified'--contribute to my difficulties with this model. Furthermore, the initial lack of definition for the three different categories of childcare in this model only temporarily disguises the weakness of this framework. For example, 'defamilised/private childcare' is subsequently also called 'informal childcare'. The fact that this includes au pairs, nannies...

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