A core purpose of the rEUsilience project is to assess the utility of the concept of resilience to understand how families cope with care- and labour market-related challenges and identify lessons for policy. This second working paper – which is the first output from Work Package 5 – turns to policy analysis and asks questions to assess how supportive income-related policies are towards different family types and situations in the six countries covered by the rEUsilience project (Belgium, Croatia, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK). Focusing on the eligibility rules governing child benefits and minimum income schemes, two criteria are used to assess the policies: inclusiveness (which assesses which family are included or excluded from receiving the benefits) and flexibility (which enquires about the extent to which policies are supportive of a change or transition in families).
Authored by Mary Daly of the University of Oxford, here are the main findings:
Child benefits: In all six countries, there is some level of support for families with children, but the degree and priorities differ. Countries organise their child benefit systems differently. Among the most significant variations are whether benefits are universal or targeted and whether the needs of specified families are recognised.
Among the six countries, Belgium and Poland are the most inclusive and supportive of children in their child benefit systems, followed by Sweden.
Minimum Income Schemes: Unlike child benefits, these schemes tend to be more individual-oriented, focusing on the individual’s engagement with the labour market and not specifically organised around child and family welfare. It is often hard for some sectors of the population (and hence some families) to access these benefits as most countries have residence conditions in place which can make it hard for migrant families especially to qualify.
Family-Related Flexibility: In this regard the working paper looks at how different family structures and work-family arrangements receive support across the six countries. Findings show variation across countries, but some trends emerge:
- Croatia and Spain provide the least support for tailoring work-life balance or income situations for parents, except for lone parents. They are the countries also least likely to tailor benefit support according to the number of children in a family.
- The UK is somewhat similar to Croatia and Spain in not varying benefit support much based on the number of children in a family. However, it strongly encourages employment among benefit recipients.
- Sweden and Belgium offer generous support to families with low wages and actively use their income support systems to incentivise specific family-based behaviours and structures. These countries, along with Poland, make strong use of their income support systems to support these particular families.
In summary, this report shows that family structure and situation make a big difference to what people are entitled within and across countries. This is too little explored as a policy variation but also in terms of its significance for people’s well-being. The next stage of this research and Work Package will be a working paper examining the inclusiveness and flexibility of care policies across the six countries.
To read the full working paper, click here.