Policies for Later-Life Families in a Comparative European Perspective

Pearl Dykstra , Erasmus University Rotterdam
Maja Djundeva, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Discussions of “family friendly” policies tend to focus on young children and their parents, disregarding the fact that those parents are also children, even grandchildren, in a multigenerational family structure. Writing on public support to the oldest members of society comes under headings such as “pension policy”, “health policy”, or “long-term care policy”—as if people in later life phases have no families. The lack of policy attention for family members who are helping older relatives is all the more remarkable given that growing numbers of frail older adults rather than growing numbers of children are putting pressure on families’ ability to provide care (Kröger & Yeandle, 2013). In this paper, we consider cross-national differences in policies for later-life families, focusing on state support enabling family members to carry out their caring responsibilities towards older generations. We address questions such as: to what extent do public arrangements lighten the task of providing care to frail relatives? To what extent are family members financially compensated for carrying out caregiving tasks? To what extent do public provisions help to redress gender inequalities in caregiving roles? We start with a discussion of how countries in Europe support and/or complement care given by families to their older relatives. Next we consider ways in which the policy context shapes caregiving in families, with a specific focus on inequality with respect to both class and gender, not only for frail older adults but also for those who care for them.

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 Presented in Session 51. Policies for Ageing Populations