Thematic Panel 20: The Role of Cultural Ideas in the Development of Childcare Policies and Long-Term Care Policies


Birgit Pfau-Effinger, Christopher Grages, Thurid Eggers

In the last decades, welfare state policies towards childcare and long-term care (LTC) for older people have experienced fundamental reforms in many countries. They were often based on the extension of social rights and publicly funded infrastructure (Daly & Ferragina 2021; Ranci & Pavolini, 2015). Also, the ways in which welfare state institutions are framing parental childcare and LTC by family members have changed (Eggers et al. 2021; Frericks et al. 2014). Policy reforms also included the strengthening of political support for the privatization and marketization of care (Brennan et al. 2011), and there are new approaches based on active ageing, re-ablement and rehabilitation (Aspinal et al. 2016). More recently, as a consequence of the need for a lockdown of public childcare in the COVID-19 pandemic, many welfare states modified existing policy instruments or introduced new ones in order to support parental childcare at home and long-term care by family members (Blum & Dobrotić 2021). 

It seems that cultural ideas were among the main drivers of these diverse developments. According to theorizing in comparative welfare state research, cultural ideas are framing the ways in which the political actors define and perceive the problems and possible solutions (Béland 2009; Pfau-Effinger 2005). In the development of family policies and long-term care, the roles of ideas and ideational change are particularly relevant. However, these cultural ideas are not always coherent; they may be contradictory and contested between social and political actors. It is common that in postindustrial societies, more traditional and diverse innovative cultural ideas about the “ideal” gender division of labor and the “ideal” ways to organize the provision of childcare and LTC for older people compete and are re-negotiated (Pfau-Effinger 2004). 

The aim of this thematic panel is to understand the role of cultural ideas for the development and for cross-national differences of childcare policies and LTC policies. It also aims to analyse  the complex mechanisms and processes on which cultural ideas enter childcare and LTC policies. In addition, it also addresses the role of cultural values and attitudes in the population and in public discourses for the development and cross-national differences in childcare policies and LTC policies.  


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