A recently published OECD report, named “Doing better for families”, looks at the different ways in which governments support families. The book discusses aspects of child poverty and children’s well-being and follows up on the question how to successfully and sustainably reduce child poverty.
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Interestingly, generous child allowances do not come up as universal remedy. A comparison of OECD countries suggests rather that child poverty is lower in those countries where female employment is on a relatively high level.
According to the OECD, “joblessness greatly increases the chances of a household being poor. […] Joblessness is still the major poverty risk especially among sole-parent families.“ This implies that parents’ paid work is the most effective instrument to reduce child poverty. Encouraging mothers’ employment in decent work and enhancing their career and income perspectives can thus be seen as a major task to combat child poverty.
The OECD states further that “the economic vulnerability of families is linked to parents’ incapacity to reconcile employment and parenthood.“ This suggests that, in order to improve the labour force participation of parents, and particularly of mothers and sole-parents, policies are needed that are geared to enable parents to combine work and family life. This includes, amongst others, investments in area-wide and all-day child care services for children of all ages, flexible working schemes, short but well-remunerated parental leave and an encouragement for fathers to take over family responsibilities.
Of course, children’s well-being does not only depend on parents’ income, but is multidimensional. Parents’ income contributes to children’s material well-being by means of investments in their health and education, but aspects of subjective-well being should not be underestimated. Children need parents’ affection and attention. It is clear that even the most qualified educators can not completely substitute parents’ engagement in child-rearing. Giving working parents the possiblility of spending time with their children is crucial for the well-being of the whole family. This possibilities do not only depend on public policy instruments, but mainly on engagements, agreements and initiatives made by employers.