Child well-being and the welfare state: a comparative analysis of poverty, child care, and child protection across welfare regimes
Welfare states are designed to promote and protect the economic and social wellbeing of citizens through principles of equal opportunity and a more equitable distribution of wealth. While the objective goal of the welfare state is to ensure the security and well-being of its citizens, the extent to which this goal is prioritized, and in turn achieved, depends on the character and impact of the particular welfare state. Variation among welfare states has been commonly examined and analysed in social research, however, children have too often been excluded from cross-national comparison particularly from research on the impact of social policy and welfare states on child well-being. The present study examines child poverty, child care and corporal punishment bans across three nations representing three welfare regimes – France (Conservative), New Zealand (Liberal), and Denmark (Social Democratic). An examination of child poverty revealed that Denmark does best in protecting children from poverty, followed by France and lastly New Zealand – with small variation from their ideal welfare regime type. Child care policies revealed that France and Denmark have generous and comprehensive policies in place for children of all ages, while New Zealand offers only 20 hours of ‘ECE’ for children over the age of three. Analyzing child care policies across welfare regimes demonstrates that although focusing on children does not dramatically change the ordering of nations within their welfare regimes, some nations are less securely place, in this case France, when children are brought to the forefront. Lastly, all three nations have taken legislative steps in recognizing children’s rights and eliminating physical punishment. The case of New Zealand is a unique one, as it does not neatly or completely correspond with what we might expect based on the ‘welfare regime’ typology.
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