9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Work and Families Building II, Auditório B1.03

Reconciling work and family in Portugal and Spain: two pathways in Southern Europe

Much about the welfare state and family policy in Southern Europe has been analysed, but there has been no systematic effort to look in historical context at the evolution of policies and to understand the paths taken in some countries but not in others. As in other European countries, Spain and Portugal have moved away from policies focusing on the "traditional" male breadwinner model. However, family policies, and "leave" policies in particular, have not necessarily shifted at the same pace or in the same direction.
Our main aim will be to compare the particular routes taken by parental leave policies in Spain and Portugal since the transition to democracy. Analysis will be carried out along three main lines: identifying the main aims and turning points in leave policies since the 1960s; focusing on the actors and political processes that sustained or influenced these policies; analysing the linkages between leave policy and major shifts in other related policies (development of childhood services; family and employment policies; gender equality policies). Against this brief historical backdrop, we will compare current policy models and discuss commonalities and differences in these two countries.
Results show that the move away from male breadwinning and female caring is undoubtedly strong in both countries, but policies and practices have developed in different directions over the last few decades. Whereas in Portugal there seems to be one fairly stable and consensual leave policy model - based on an early return to full-time work, with strong linkages to gender equality and service provision policies - in Spain the policy model is more diverse, and certainly more choice-orientated than in Portugal. It is based on the promotion of some early return to work after a short well-paid leave, while also emphasizing the advantages of longer leave, part-time options and unpaid reductions in work. Low government commitment to service provision with long opening hours and strong devolution of funding and services to employers and regional governments have also built up varied linkages between service provision and the leave system, with higher expectations on families to organize their own care arrangements.