The distributive effects of work-family life policies in European welfare states

Publication type

Research Paper

Series Number



ImPRovE Working Papers


Publication date

April 15, 2016


An aspect that has only recently received attention in the study of
policy measures aimed at supporting families with young children in
their work-family life balance is its distributive impact. Are these
measures used by poor and rich families alike, or is there a ‘Matthew
effect’ at play, in the sense that poor families are underrepresented in
using such measures? In order to perform such an evaluation one needs
to have a measure of both cash and in-kind benefits related to policies
that help families cope with the care of young children and job
expectations. In-kind benefits are offered mainly in the form of
subsidized early childhood education and care (ECEC), for which an
appropriate cash equivalent has to be derived. As the value of in-kind
benefits from publicly provided services is not included in the EU-SILC
data, we derive them for this paper in line with earlier studies (e.g.
Matsaganis and Verbist, 2009; Vaalavuo, 2011; Förster and Verbist, 2012;
Van Lancker, 2014; Van Lancker and Ghysels, 2014). In comparison to
these earlier studies, however, our analysis is much more fine-grained
as we use the microsimulation model EUROMOD to include more precise
estimates of parental fees and related tax-benefit policies; thus, we
will have a better estimate of the net in-kind benefit households derive
from ECEC services. We focus on policy measures going to children under
compulsory schooling age for a selection of seven EU-countries. These
improved estimates allow us to analyze the work-family polices from
three perspectives: 1) how do the distributive characteristics of cash
and in-kind benefits compare to one another in this domain?; 2) how do
countries compare to one another in their policy perspective in terms of
supporting outsourcing or home-based care for young children?; 3) what
is the balance between private and public efforts for outsourced
childcare across countries? Our results show that including net fees in
the analysis attenuates the Matthew effect, in the sense that net fees
are relatively more heavy for richer households than for the poor. There
is, however, considerable cross-country variation.





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