Swiss National Science Foundation project:“Who cares? Welfare State and Gender (In)Equality: A Eurasian perspective”

The project “Who cares? Welfare State and Gender (In)Equality: A Eurasian perspective” aims at producing a database on pre-school (0-3/6-year-old) childcare-related policies in selected European and Asian countries since the 1990s to present day. Located between the market and the family, welfare policies “mediate relations among individuals whose lives are woven in a continuous interplay of home, work and society” and thus affect the definition of family and social roles between men and women within families (Daly 2000:2). Investigating childcare policies is of great interest; especially since recent findings have revealed that, in European countries as well as in East Asian countries, the lack of support to help families articulate work and family responsibilities has long term negative impacts on the life-course of mothers (Repo et al. 2020).

It is often assumed, that Asia’s experiences with childcare provisions differ considerably from Europe’s (Zhang and Yeung 2012). However, in both contexts care activities are primarily the responsibility of women (Cook and Dong 2017; Hershatter 2007; Kergoat 2000; Le Goff and Levy 2016; Lewis 2001a; Lewis and West 2017; Zhang and Yeung 2012). If in East Asia family-based social-norms refer to the concept of filial piety (xiaoshun) (Ikels 2004), in European countries care activities are envisioned as civic virtue (Fine 2007). To uncover gender assumptions of childcare-related policies and put them into perspective, one needs to examine in-depth cross-national policies. The purpose of this project is to review the main relevant policy developments over the mentioned period of time in two European countries – Switzerland and the United Kingdom – and in two East Asian countries – China and Singapore.

The questions underlying the database are: What patterns of public support for childcare have been implemented in the four countries? What assumptions underpin childcare-related policies? How have they changed over time? What are the similarities and the distinctive features in the politics of care between these four countries?

The methodology used will rely on the pioneering work of Mary Daly and Mireia Borrell-Porta of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, at the University of Oxford, who built the first UK family policy database . The extensive review of the literature and sources will focus on three policy sets: childcare services, parental leave and income transfers. Three questions will frame the typology: Who cares?, Where is care provided?, Who pays? (Jenson 1997). The database will provide standardized information on preschool childcare policies and it will constitute a unique source of information on European and Asian childcare policies. It will be a public resource at the disposal of the scientific community, via FORSbase , and it will contribute to understand the transformation of childcare policies in a transnational perspective. This explorative research is a necessary step to reveal how both family’s and welfare state’s actions intersect.

If you are interested please contact Sandra Constantin: sandra.constantin@hetsl.ch