Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor Emeritus, Shizuoka University

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shizuoka University
The Effect of Family Policies on Gender Relations: A Comparative Study of the United States, Sweden, France and Japan

The purpose of this project is to identify the effects of contemporary family policies on gender relations by comparing four countries with different welfare regimes: the United States, Sweden, France and Japan. European studies suggest that government-sponsored, high-quality childcare services have improved opportunities for mothers as economic providers; that paid parental leave has reinforced parental obligations and expanded the social rights of parents to care for their children; and that gender-specific rights for fathers, such as paternity leave, “daddy month” and “papa quota” rapidly gained popularity in Europe. But, is the European way the only model for Japanese society to follow? It is interesting that the United States maintains a relatively high birth rate in the absence of public childcare and sufficient parental leave. In the U.S., family and market both appear to take an active role in society. Some companies are known for being family friendly and conscious of their Corporate Social Responsibility, and non-profit organizations offer many activities for children and families. Grand-parenting is also common in the U.S., and fathers seem to be relatively involved in the child rearing process. Thus, a new comparison of the social democratic in Europe and the liberal-residual in the United States is necessary. I have been conducting comparative research on families and social policies promoting a life-work balance from the perspective of gender in three countries: France, Sweden and Japan. This research produced my Ph.D. dissertation, published in 2006. In my thesis, I combined two levels of analysis: micro family relations and macro social policies. Now I would like to add a new focus on the mezzo level. My project’s originality lies in its integrated interpretation of three levels: family policies on the macro level, good practices of local governments, companies and non-profit organizations on the mezzo level, and the realities of family life on the micro level; all of which have been studied separately. Field work will be the basic method of data collection and three levels of data will be required in each country: information regarding family policies at a government level; case studies of good practices at a community and company level; interviews with families with one or more children under ten. The quantitative data to be analyzed has already been prepared and I can also use public data when necessary. Based upon this field work, I expect to find a liberal-residual type family policy package in the U.S. In addition to the various approaches practiced in Europe, the U.S. approach will point to a new route, perhaps somewhere between Sweden, France and Japan. I hope, with a qualitative analysis of family interviews, to identify some U.S. family strategies for a life-work balance between genders. Family policy interacts with family strategy. Then, we can understand how it is that fathers in the U.S. take an active part in child rearing under the family policy package.