Achieving economic growth, social justice and tackling inequality: Kirstein Rummery and her team have been researching what Scotland can learn about childcare and long-term care and its effect on gender equality from international evidence?
The Fairer Caring Nations project has been looking at countries with good gender equality – where women have improved access to political power, resources, income, leisure and control over their lives – to see what Scotland could learn. It has been focussing specifically on the role that childcare and long-term social care can play in achieving gender equality.
The project team invited international experts from six different countries who score well on those indices of gender equality to discuss how childcare and long-term care policies work in their countries. They were quizzed by people working in Scottish Government, local authorities, the Department of Health and academics about which policies worked most effectively, and which ones could work in Scotland.
Three different models were discussed:
• The Nordic/social democratic model (for example in Sweden, Iceland and Denmark) which is characterised by near-universal state-provided or funded services, generous parental leave (including leave for fathers) and relatively low support for family carers;
• The market/family model (for example in the Netherlands and Germany), where the community and family play a significant part in providing services and support alongside state and private providers, with the state commissioning services or running insurance schemes to cover their costs;
• And the devolved/federal model (the province of Quebec in Canada), where a devolved administration has developed a universal-coverage childcare policy using devolved legislative and social policy powers that has improved educational outcomes, helped to tackle poverty and income inequality, and improved gender inequality better than the rest of Canada.
Of course, you cannot simply import policies from abroad: the political and social context in Scotland is different from the case study countries in many ways: but the challenge of achieving better outcomes for children, parents (particularly women) and disabled and older people are universal. The international evidence is clear: investing in reducing gender equality improves economic growth, helps to address educational and income inequalities, improves outcomes for children, enables disabled people, carers and older people to live more independently, (e.g. to work and contribute to their communities), and improves social justice and wellbeing. The team learned interesting things about the advantages and drawbacks of each model, what works and what doesn’t, and will be presenting their findings from September onwards in the following ways:
• Policy briefings on models of childcare and long-term care that address social inequality, and how they could be implemented in Scotland;
• A free conference with workshop sessions on childcare, gender equality, long-term-social care and preventative social policy internationally, and what Scotland could learn in September;
• An accessible book presenting the research evidence, particularly the advantages and drawbacks of each model and how the policies could be applied in Scotland; and
• Presentations to different organisations about the policy and practice implications of our findings.
If you would like to receive an invitation to the conference, details of how to buy the book, or would like the research team to visit your organisation and present their findings in a workshop, please contact the Centre on Constitutional Change using the details below: we look forward to hearing from you and to helping Scotland develop fair and progressive childcare and long-term care policies that help improve wellbeing, economic growth, and social justice.
Media and general enquiries about the project should be addressed to Nick.Bibby@ed.ac.uk, or you can contact Professor Kirstein Rummery directly at Kirstein.Rummery@stir.ac.uk.