Sorting countries into categories

As noted earlier, Esping-Andersen’s basic conceptualisation of three welfare regimes focuses on the way social welfare is produced and allocated. The three regimes – the Liberal, Social-Democrat and Conservative – are identified according to three dimensions: (a) the social institutions responsible for the citizen’s welfare. These would typically be the market, the state or the family, or some combination of the three; (b) the degree of de-commodification in a society, i.e. the extent to which the welfare of individuals is independent of their work in the market; and (c) the stratification order promoted, based on a theoretical assumption that the welfare state itself is a stratifying system (Esping-Andersen 1990: 23; 1999: 74-86).

The theoretical underpinnings of Esping-Andersen’s approach have been criticised, primarily by feminists, for its lack of attention to the role of gender and the little attention it devotes to the family as compared with the emphasis on the labour market and the state [Lew92] [Orl93] [Orl01]. Consequently, Esping-Andersen incorporated these criticisms into the power-resource theory in his later work [Esp99] by suggesting the notion of de-familialisation, which refers to the ways in which social policies weaken individuals’ (mainly women’s) reliance on the family to gain full economic independence (Esping-Andersen 1999: 45).

In constructing a typology of the work-family nexus that will guide the discussion in the following chapters, we take into account the two dimensions of welfare provision and gender ideology. Regarding the welfare dimension, we ask who the major welfare provider in the country is. We make a distinction between state and non-state (family or market) responsibility for provision. On the gender dimension, we look at societal ideology and the organisation of the division of labour and make a distinction between countries in which this division is gendered (i.e. men are expected to be the main providers while women take chief responsibility for care work) and gender-neutral arrangements in which both men and women are expected to participate in the labour market and care for their children. The cross-classification of these two dimensions yields four types of work-family regime based on the dependence or independence of the work-family decisions. These regimes are presented schematically in Table 2-1. We explain their underlying principles in the next section.

Table 2-1. Typology of work-family regimes
Welfare Provider
Non-state State
Division of labour Gendered a) Family dependence c) State dependence
Neutral b) Market dependence d) Individual independence

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