This chapter is about ‘public provisions for children’. This term encompasses a wide range of out-of-home settings where groups of children come together, from schooling, through a range of early childhood, play and out-of-school services as well as group residential settings, to lightly structured spaces for children's outdoor, unsupervised play. This is treated as a dominant understanding in the UK today, producing public provisions as primarily technical and disciplinary undertakings, concerned with regulation, surveillance and normalisation, and instrumental in rationality and purpose. The chapter also considers another social construction with a different rationality and purpose: public provisions understood as ‘children's spaces’. It argues that the meanings people attach to public provisions for children are inextricably linked with social constructions of childhood and our image of the child, which are taken to be contestable subjects produced in the social arena.
This chapter explores what happens when neoliberal capitalism becomes a hegemonic system of thought and practice, with its unswerving belief in the virtues of markets and the private, of competition and inequality, and of calculation and individual choice. But it is not a general account of this phenomenon, rather a study of how it plays out in one small part of the neoliberal world – early childhood education and care (ECEC) in England. Nor is this chapter solely critique. It is also about the possibility of thinking differently and an exercise in putting the neoliberal approach to ECEC where it belongs: in perspective, as but one of a number of alternatives, a possibility rather than a necessity. In particular, the chapter explores just one of these alternatives, an ECEC inscribed with democracy as a fundamental value. It makes the case for researching critical case studies of innovative provision and practice to understand better the conditions and processes that might stimulate and sustain alternatives. The chapter concludes it is still possible to envisage a demarketised system based on Children’s Centres, each serving all families in a local catchment area and each generating a wide range of projects in response to local encounters.
With the growth of parental employment, leave policy is at the centre of welfare state development and at the heart of countries’ child and family policies. It is widely recognised as an essential element for attaining important demographic, social and economic goals and is the point where many different policy areas intersect: child well-being, family, gender equality, employment and labour markets, and demography. Leave policy, therefore, gives a unique insight into a country’s values, interests and priorities.
International comparisons of leave policy are widely available, but far less attention has been paid to understanding the factors that bring about these variations. “The politics of parental leave policies" makes good this omission. Looking at parental leave policy within a wider work/family context, it addresses how and why, and by whom, particular policies are created and subsequently developed in particular countries. Chapters covering 15 countries in Europe and beyond and the European Union bring together leading academic experts to provide a unique insight into the past, present and future state of this key policy area.
“The politics of parental leave policies” is essential reading for students, teachers and researchers in social policy, child and family policy, welfare states, gender relations and equality, and employment and labour markets, providing an opportunity to study in depth the creation of social policy. It will also be of interest to policy makers in national governments and international organisations.
This volume brings together contributors from 18 countries to provide international perspectives on the politics of parental leave policies in different parts of the world. Initially looking at the politics of care leave policies in eight countries across Europe, the US, Latin America and Asia, the book moves on to consider a variety of key issues in depth, including gender equality, flexibility and challenges for fathers in using leave. In the final section of the book, contributors look beyond the early parenthood period to consider possible future directions for care leave policy in order to address the wider changes and challenges that our societies face.
More young children than ever before are spending their time in some form of early childhood service. But how do we know what they think about it? While there has been a move to take children’s views into account more generally, very little attention has been given to listening to young children below the age of six or seven.
This book is the first of its kind to focus on listening to young children, both from an international perspective and through combining theory, practice and reflection. With contributions and examples from researchers and practitioners in six countries it examines critically how listening to young children in early childhood services is understood and practised.
Each chapter is rooted in the everyday lives of young children and presents a range of actual experiences for students and practitioners to draw from. Beyond listening goes further to address key questions emerging from early childhood services and research. These are What do we mean by listening? Why listen? How do we listen to young children? What view of the child do different approaches to listening presume? What risks does listening entail for young children?
The authors are leading experts in this area of rapidly growing interest and have themselves developed innovative methods such as the Mosaic approach, which is discussed in the book.
Important reforms are taking place in children’s services in the UK, with a move towards greater integration. In England, Scotland and Sweden, early childhood education and care, childcare for older children, and schools are now the responsibility of education departments. This book is the first to examine, cross-nationally, this major shift in policy.
With case studies and practical examples to illustrate how changes have been implemented, this book is essential reading for practitioners, managers, politicians, trainers and researchers in children’s services, including schools, early years, school-age childcare, leisure and recreation, child welfare and health.
[...] Our construction of childhood and our images of the child represent ethical and political choices, made within larger frameworks of ideas, values and rationalities. In this chapter we want to explore what we believe to be a dominant discursive regime about children, a discourse which creates particular linked understandings of childhood in British society, and images of the child to match. Carlina Rinaldi (1992) puts the matter succinctly: “Many images take something away from children, children are seen as weak poor, needy”. That, it seems to us, sums up the most powerful images of the child in Britain today. In some other parts of the world, other images are as powerful, or more so; while in yet other places, perhaps particularly in the English-language world, this image of the ‘weak, poor and needy’ child will resonate. [...]
But before laying out our case, we should make two things very clear, lest the reader misunderstand our case from the start. First, to problematise – question – a dominant image of the child as ‘weak, poor, needy’ is not to deny that children are, in many respects, at a disadvantage compared to adults; it is not to deny that many children are living in material poverty; it is not to deny that children have needs. Nor are we saying that public provision for children should ignore issues such as child protection or the need of some children for more support than others by reason, for example, of a disability.
Nor, if we suggest that the dominant image emphasises children’s dependence on their parents, do we imply that children should be regarded as independent and autonomous.
This chapter examines an attempt to transform UK leave policy, re-configuring it away from maternalism and towards greater gender equality, and why this attempted change of direction failed. It shows how the country introduced statutory leave at a late date, compared to other European countries, and adopted with little consideration a model centred on long and low paid Maternity Leave. After two decades of neglect, when leave policy came back onto the government’s agenda, this model became more established as Maternity Leave was further extended, while a newly introduced Parental Leave was marginalised. Attempted reform, in 2011-12, failed, due to insufficient support and understanding, leaving UK leave policy as a classic case of path dependency.
Entitlements to job-protected leave for parents are an important part of social policy in most countries. It is a necessary part of the tool-kit for running a modern state. With few exceptions, parents today can expect the right to take leave at and around the time of childbirth and during the child’s early years, wherein the parents are paid by the state while taking that leave. In some cases, the parent can also expect to have the option to work reduced hours or to take time off work, with pay, if the child is ill. This social policy, which acknowledges the care responsibilities of the members of the labour force, began in the late nineteenth century as a health issue for employed women, with the aim of protecting their health and that of their newborn infants. This book examines the convergence and divergence between national social policies, in particular the leave entitlements for parents. It aims to give a better understanding of how and why leave policies are shaped by political processes. The book does this through a series of national case studies, most focused on individual countries, with two chapters that each compare two countries. It is hoped that the cases presented in this book will shed light on the politics of leave policy and enable a better understanding of how and why countries create the distinctive national profiles for leave policy.
This book tackles public policies that are targeted at young children and their families. In particular, it discusses those that concern parenting and employment policies. Parental leave policies incorporate responses to multiple concerns, including economic support of families with young children; protection of maternal and child health, pregnancy, and childbirth; promotion of maternal employment; gender equality in the labour market and home; support for paternal time with children; involvement of parents in infants’ care; and efforts to ensure that babies start their growth and development in decent circumstances. Debates about the importance of the first few years of life have been ongoing for several years, however it was only recently that policies targeted at young children and their families become an important focus of public policy. This increasing focus on the importance of childcare led to the policy interests in leave and early childhood education and care, driven by employment and gender equality goals. It has also led to the increasing interest in the reconciliation of work and family life or ‘work-life balance’. It is this context of the importance of the early years for many policy fields that forms the focus of this book. It looks at the developments in fifteen advanced industrialised countries and the EU with regard to parental leave policies. The focus is on the formation of policy and not on its outcomes. In particular, the book looks at the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘how’ of leave policies. It also discusses the major components of these policies as well as the diverse forms they take. It also tackles the policy choices that have been made, the influential actors in policy formation, the major policy changes, and the policy decisions that have been made. This concluding chapter discusses the policy-making process, the history of leave policies, and the politics of parental leave policies. In particular, it retraces maternal and infant health; fertility and population policies; labour market trends and policies; gender equality; political factors including political actors and institutions; social actors; governance; and the international influence of leave policies.