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Shifting ideas: work-family policy reform in Germany and England, 1997-2008

Mohun Himmelweit, Samuel (2021) Shifting ideas: work-family policy reform in Germany and England, 1997-2008. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004318


Since the late-1990s high income countries have taken an increasing interest in work-family policies, expanding provision of childcare and early education and reconfiguring maternity, paternity and parental leave policies to better facilitate reconciliation between employment and care responsibilities. These changes have occurred in contexts in which they represent a dramatic shift away from long-established ‘paths’ of policies towards families, underpinned by assumptions about the existence and desirability of male-breadwinner/female-caregiver family roles. This thesis investigates this expansion of work-family policies in two countries in which they represent such a shift: England and Germany. Unlike much of the comparative literature, which seeks to explain the cross-national trend of expansion, this thesis examines variation in reform and particularly why Germany underwent dramatic ‘path switching’ change compared to more moderate ‘path departure’ in England. Arguing that to understand the content of change, it is necessary to examine the ideas underpinning reform, the thesis compares the processes of reform in the two countries and the role of ideas therein. Through documentary analysis and interviews with participants in the policymaking process, it investigates how new ideas about work-family policy came onto the political agenda and how they influenced policy development. Drawing on a novel framework of ideational change, it concludes that in Germany deep ideational change took place, in which ‘background ideas’ that underpinned work-family policymaking were altered, while in England change remained at the level of problems and solutions and background ideas served to constrain change. The thesis explains this through differences in the form in which new ideas arrived on the political agenda, the political context which helped shape their reception and the way in which key political actors framed the new ideas.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Samuel Mohun Himmelweit
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Fleckenstein, Timo

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