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Family policy affords a good example of the general principle that national governments should be left to determine how their social protection systems are framed, financed and organised. Three reasons may help to explain why, until the late 1980s, the Commission was particularly reluctant to intervene in family affairs. Firstly, and perhaps more so than in the case of policy for the young, older people or health, views on the objectives of family policy are divided along ideological lines both within and between countries. The resulting diversity of practices is such that the Commission may have been loath to take on the daunting task of seeking to co-ordinate policies to improve the well-being of families. Secondly, some governments have considered family life to belong to the private domain and therefore to be forbidden territory for explicit state intervention. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the welfare of families has been given low priority because social protection in the Union and in most member states is centred on workers’ rather than citizenship rights. The social security systems of most of the founder members of the European Economic Community (EEC) were strongly influenced by the Bismarckian statist corporatist model of welfare, with its guiding principle that workers should be guaranteed benefits and a substitute income calculated from their previous earnings in return for the payment of employment-related insurance contributions (see Chapter 2).
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