How do policies on family life vary from country to country? This post explores some of the cross national variations in policies on the following aspects of family life:
- Benefits for single parents
- Maternity and paternity pay
- Gay marriage
This post should be relevant to the social policies topic within the A-level sociology families and households module, and there’s also some possible relevance to the religion module too, as some of the variations in family-policies are due to religious traditions.
International Variations in Marriage
Marriage policy seems to be the one which varies least – the majority of countries have 16 as the lowest legal age for marriage, with a few countries having set the age at 15.
There seems to be a problem (from the Western perspective) in Iran which has a policy of allowing temporary marriages – which several families use to marry off children much younger than 16 years of age.
Iran seems to be an issue!
International variations in Divorce Law
The Philippines remains the only country on earth where divorce is illegal
The worst affected people here are the victims of domestic violence, who are mainly female, who can only escape an abusive marriage through a legal separation, a status which prevents them from remarrying should they so wish.
Japan is also an interesting case in relation to equality, because women have to wait six months after divorce to get remarried, whereas men can get remarried immediately after a divorce.
International variations in Maternity and Paternity Pay
There is significant variation across the developed world in the number of weeks of full-time paid maternity and paternity leave new mothers and fathers are entitled to – ranging from over 80 weeks to less than 10 weeks – and in the case of the United States of America, women are entitled to no weeks of mandatory paid maternity leave at the Federal level – that’s left to individual states and employers.
NB – with 12 weeks of full maternity pay and only 2 paid weeks for paternity, the UK comes very near the bottom for its quality of state support for new parents.
Source: Unicef: Are the World’s Richest Countries Family Friendly?
International variations in Gay Marriage
30 countries allow same sex marriage
72 Countries still have laws against gay relationships
NB: The above map is taken from a blog called ’76 crimes’ – 76 must have been the number of countries where there were laws against homosexuality at the time the blog was initially set up – however now there are only 72 countries.
I guess this shows progress, it also shows you how not to name a blog!
International Variations in Child Benefit
Most Northern European countries pay parents for having children, through ‘universal child benefit’ – parents get paid no matter what their income. Payments vary from around $2000 in France to over $8000 in Luxembourg.
The United Kingdom is one of the few countries which means-tests its child benefit, so higher income households do not get it.
Most less developed countries such as the United States have no child benefit allowance for new parents.
Some Questions to consider:
- To what extent do family policies vary from country to country?
- Which countries have the most ‘progressive policies’? (You’ll need to say what you mean by progressive!)
- Which countries have social policies which are the most oppressive to women and children?
- Why do policies vary from country to country?