Child care, welfare reform and women's labour force participation

Increasingly, child care policy is seen as a central element of social and economic policy, as well as contributing to the political legitimacy of state governments.

Many countries have begun to recognise that childcare responsibilities can no longer be seen as a private concern of parents alone, including the so-called Anglophone 'liberal welfare regimes' of the UK, Australia, USA and Canada, even though they have been hesitant to fund or develop comprehensive child care policies.

Among these, both Australia and the UK have announced National Child Care Strategies, yet what is interesting about these two countries is that their policies seem to be moving in different directions.

Australia has shifted away from its model of community-based, non-profit care and now relies upon private, for-profit businesses as the major provider of services for children below school age.

In the UK, the pattern is more mixed. It has moved from very little support for child care to providing free, but limited hours, nursery education for every three and four year old, combined with tax credits for low to middle income working parents to help pay for child care, provided through the private market or the voluntary sector.

Nevertheless, both regimes rely heavily for the care of young children on mothers in part-time employment. This project is the first part of a cross-national comparative study of Australia and the UK. Its aim is to produce a scoping study of childcare policy choices and trajectories.

Project Publications

  • Williams, F (2005) 'New Labour's Family Policy', Social Policy Review 17, ed. M.Powell, et al, Policy Press with Social Policy Association.
  • Stanley, K and Williams, F (2005) 'Relationships between parents' In: K. Stanley (ed.) Daddy dearest? Active fatherhood and public policy. IPPR.
  • Williams, F  (2004) 'The Local Politics of Parenting and Partnering', Social Policy and Society 4(1).
  • Williams, F  (2004) Rethinking Families. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
  • Williams, F  (2004) 'What matters is who works: commentary on the Green Paper 'Every Child Matters'', Critical Social Policy 24 (3).