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Welfare Reform on the Web (September 2007): Child welfare - overseas

Closing the childcare gap: the interaction of childcare provision and mothers' agency in Norway

A.L. Ellingsaeter and L. Gulbrandsen

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 36, 2007, p. 649-669

In most European countries a 'childcare gap' exists, that is a discrepancy between the demand for and provision of, childcare. Among countries that are succeeding in closing the gap are the Nordic states. A comparison of the development of Nordic childcare services shows complex social forces to be at work. These dynamics are explored in more detail in the Norwegian case, where mothers' increased labour market participation has generated a rising demand for childcare, to which the state responded by expanding services. Policy rationales for expanding the provision of publicly funded childcare have varied among political parties. For parties of the Left, the provision of childcare services is part of supporting dual worker families and gender equality. For the Centre-Right parties, the support is part of their commitment to parental choice.

Speeding up or holding back? Institutional factors in the development of childcare provision in Spain

M. Leon

European Societies, vol. 9, 2007, p. 315-337

This paper looks at the evolution of childcare provision in Spain against the background of increasing female participation in the labour market. Broadly speaking, public provision of childcare has developed within the education system and has been regarded as an investment in the socialisation of children rather than as a mechanism to assist parents in balancing work and family life. Improvements in the quality and scope of public childcare provision have come about because of the expansion of the education system to include preschool children over the age of three. The provision for children under three is more limited and there are considerable regional disparities. At the same time, private provision of childcare in the service sector is expanding.

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