This chapter examines the development of social policies for women in Europe with particular reference to the four countries of Britain, Germany, Spain and Sweden. In Chapter 3 we discussed the differing patterns of women’s labour market participation and noted how these patterns were in part shaped by the social policies adopted in each country, especially those which encouraged or discouraged the reconciliation of paid work and family life. Chapter 6 discusses poverty and social exclusion in Europe and there we also examine how women’s access to material and other resources is affected by social security policies and access to paid employment. This chapter, in contrast, focuses on the historical developments of social policies for women and the underlying assumptions of the ‘normal expectations’ of women’s roles within each society. The chapter first considers the theoretical debates on the comparative study of welfare states and gender. This section examines recent feminist critiques of mainstream social policy and discusses a number of concepts and policy dimensions which are useful for the comparative analysis of how women fare in different welfare states. The second section focuses on the development of social policies for women in the four case-study countries.
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