Working Mothers and the Welfare State: Religion and the Politics of Work-family Policies in Western Europe and the United States
While the extent of female participation in the labor force varies across western countries, most have experienced a substantial change in women's attachment to the world of paid work. Everywhere, this trend has raised two central questions related to the children of working mothers: Should mothers of young children work outside the home at all? And if so, who bears responsibility for assuring the care and well-being of their children? Comparing the various policy choices made across France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States, the book shows that there are differences in the extent to which societies accept both the idea of working mothers and the role of the state in shaping gender roles and children's lives.
Morgan employs a comparative historical approach that focuses on three time periods: the late nineteenth century, the era of rapid welfare state expansion from 1945 to 1975, and the period of seeming welfare state stagnation since the mid-1970s. The author shows how, starting in the nineteenth century, religion influenced political development in the four countries the book studies. Historic patterns of church-state relations and conflicts over religion affected ideologies about gender roles and the family, as well as the way religious forces would be incorporated into political life. These forces shaped welfare policy between 1945 and 1975, a critical time for social policy expansion. During this period, socially conservative forces in countries such as the Netherlands and the United States blocked policies that would encourage mothers to work, while the weakness of these forces enabled such policies in both Sweden and France. Morgan concludes that these policy decisions have had an enduring impact, in part because the expansion of the welfare state has been curtailed since the 1970s.
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