Can we identify intergenerational policy regimes in Europe?

Chiara Saraceno, Wolfgang Keck

This paper examines whether it is possible to recognise specific patterns of institutionally regulated downward (towards children) and upward (towards the old) intergenerational obligations with regard to care and financial support, and to identify specific country profiles and clusters of countries in Europe. Based on the three-fold conceptualisation of familialism by default, supported familialism and de-familialisation, and using a complex set of indicators, we describe how countries, by means of policies, allocate intergenerational responsibilities between families and the state, also paying attention to their gender impact. The study includes all 27 EU countries and for the first time offers a comparative overview of a diversified set of policies with regard to both children and the old. It concludes that although specific policy profiles emerge with regard to the two sets of obligations, these do not always coincide. Furthermore, contrary to widespread opinion, supported familialism and de-familialisation are not always contrasting policy approaches. In some countries, they actually represent part of an integrated approach to public support of intergenerational obligations. Moreover, the gender impact of supported familialism may be different and even contrary, depending on the specific instrument. Finally, once the road of oversimplification is excluded, only one statistically sound cluster of countries emerges. It is, however, possible to detect groups of countries that are similar. These only partly overlap with prevalent welfare regime types.

Suggested Citation

Saraceno, C. & Keck, W. (2010). Can we identify intergenerational policy regimes in Europe? European Societies, 12(5), 675–696.

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