1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development (2000 - 2009), Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009)

Gender and Post-Socialist Welfare States in Central Eastern Europe. Family Policy Reforms in Poland and the Czech Republic Compared (Draft)



Gender has been only a marginal concern in post-socialist reform processes. To illustrate the dimensions of change, and as one way to explore the broader gender dynamics of social policy reforms in post-socialist Central Europe, this paper undertakes an analysis of family benefit reforms after 1989. Focusing on reforms of family benefits, including maternity and childcare benefits, as well as transfers to families, it analyses how and why, during the post-1989 situation, “costly” benefits and services supporting women’s dual role as worker and mother - a feature of the socialist past often considered “women-friendly” - changed dramatically. The reform trajectories of family benefits are key elements in the ongoing process of change of the institutional and social environment in which gender relations are negotiated. Feminist research has pointed to the fact that it is not the degree of state intervention as such, but the particular kind of policies that shape gender relations. Accordingly, as state-organized mediators between paid employment and unpaid care work, family benefits are a central instrument of welfare states to shape gender relations. An analysis of family benefit reforms needs to look at three main areas and their intersections: (1) the legacy of benefit systems, (2) the overall economic and political shifts in family policy since 1989, including the gendered values of key reform actors, as well as (3) the power dynamics between reforms actors, including among other things the relative strength of women’s voices. Steinhilber deals with each of these issues in a comparative fashion.