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Åsa Lundqvist

Åsa Lundqvist


Åsa Lundqvist

New Social Risk Policies for German and Swedish Families


  • Åsa Lundqvist
  • Ilona Ostner

Summary, in English


Until very recently, Germany belonged to the ‘familialist’ group of welfare states, which offered cash rather than services to married couples and families. Sweden, in contrast, belonged to the ‘non-familialist’ counterpart, fostering gender equality in employment and family care via public services and extended reconciliation measures for decades. During the 2000s, however, Germany eventually enacted employment-friendly family policies, like Swedish-style parental leave and the steady expansion of full-time public childcare. Germany also inserted an impressive series of new rules and procedures into Family and Social Law to better protect children and secure their healthy upbringing and early education. While much remained the same in the Swedish case, a new layer of policy measures was added to the existing family policy plethora. In the wake of the economic crisis in the 1990s, increasing ill-health among the youth led to new public health goals in turn emphasizing the need of more effective parenting support services. Interestingly, these new forms of social welfare services – or ‘new social risks policies’ – partly developed in parallel with the ‘deinstitutionalization’ of family life, exemplified in individualization, delayed parenthood, increasing rates of cohabitation, divorce and single parent households.

In this paper we assume that the evolution of new social welfare services, such as parenting support, can be viewed as a reaction to the deinstitutionalization of family life, i.e. they constitute forms of new risk management. In the analysis new forms of welfare services are interpreted as public strategies aiming at re-institutionalizing parenthood and parenting via all sorts of services (less so cash benefits), and compensating for the erosion and the assumed weakness of traditional norms around couple and family formation and child upbringing. Thus the purpose of this paper is to analyze the role of the deinstitutionalization process of the family in ‘new social risk’ policies in Germany and Sweden.

The paper begins by briefly discussing major trends in family arrangements, pinpointing differences in context, assumptions, and the important issue of timing, which together help to understand why the ‘new risk policies’ have taken different shape in the two countries. Second, we provide an overview of the current characteristics of these policies (cash benefits, care services and activation measures) for children and parents. Here, we derive empirical evidence for our two case studies from policy documents and expert reports. Evidence is also based on interviews with decision makers, service providers and experts in the field of new parenting support services in both countries. In the final section we highlight recent diverging family policy trends in the two countries compared: the devolution of care responsibilities from state to families in Sweden, versus the progressive takeover of such responsibilities by the state in Germany. The findings of our two small case studies provide important insights into public policies (services more than benefits) to moderate or compensate assumed social risks, which accompany new forms of family formation and parenting.


  • Sociology

Publishing year




Document type

Conference - other


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Conference name

Changing Family Arrangements and Social Welfare Benefits: Effects on Work, Marriage, and Cohabitation

Conference date

2017-10-31 - 2017-10-31

Conference place

Lisbon, Portugal