Family Policy in Selected European Countries in Comparison

The study analyses the status quo of Austrian family policy, focusing on direct cash transfers, tax reliefs, child care facilities and child care leave provisions (Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, UK). Public expenses for family policy are above OECD average in Austria. Measured against important indicators of success (e.g., fertility rate or poverty risk of children), however, outcomes partly are rather average. Also distribution of paid and unpaid work between fathers and mothers is more unequal than in many other countries, which is supported by various provisions in the tax and transfer system: in particular by the high tax burden in the low and middle income range. Also the insufficient supply of child-care facilities in particular for under 3-years-olds represents an obstacle for gender equality on the labour market. In the last few years, Austrian family policy implemented important steps to improve reconciliation of family and work and to increase fathers' participation in child care. The introduction of non-transferable partner months within the child care leave period and of an additional child care leave variant combining a rather short leave period with a transfer payment of 80 percent of former income, as well as the expansion of child care facilities can be expected to improve incentives and preconditions for a more equal distribution of paid and unpaid work between mothers and fathers. Additional investment in quantity and quality of child care facilities, accompanied by the elimination of provisions in the tax and transfer system supporting the existing uneven distribution of labour within families, would increase mothers' participation rates in the labour market and fathers' participation in child care further.