The starting point: some important changes

A number of changes in families and employment patterns challenge the conventional view of the welfare, work and family nexus underlining how they can no longer be considered as relatively separate spheres.


The increased female labour market participation comes with considerable changes for families and the work-family equilibria, such as:

  • the (re-)emergence of different types of households and their pluralisation,
  • the increasing importance of the work-family interface,
  • and – presumably – also changes in the inequality (re-) distributing capacities of families.

National welfare states play an important role: the search for new work-family equilibria, within different welfare arrangements, bring new challenges. These changes also make it difficult to sustain the current policy/welfare assumptions based on the traditional model of two stable parents and a net division between a male breadwinner and a female housekeeper.

The developments in families also include profound demographic changes, most prominently, the overall decline in fertility rates. Literature show that a work career does not necessarily represent a burden for women’s entry into maternity (and vice versa) but the reconciliation of work and family choices is heavily affected by the institutional features of the welfare, labour market and family nexus, dramatically different across countries.

Labour market

The second institution that underwent considerable changes is the labour market. As the risks tied to the fact of being inserted in a secondary labour market are concentrated on specific groups in the society, they potentially create (additional) cleavages of social inequality and menace social cohesion and social integration. In most countries, flexibilisation concentrated particularly on the younger generations, typically in their reproductive age.  Thus, the increased market insecurity impacts on several aspects:

  • individual employment careers and economic insecurity
  • the family formation process
  • and the chances families can provide to offspring.

Therefore it seems particularly relevant to show how individuals and families develop strategies to adapt to these changes.

The outlined developments show that the net division between work and family is out of date. It is not possible to study the labour market without taking into account households and families or vice versa; therefore it is indispensable to systematically link micro, meso and macro level.