This book tackles public policies that are targeted at young children and their families. In particular, it discusses those that concern parenting and employment policies. Parental leave policies incorporate responses to multiple concerns, including economic support of families with young children; protection of maternal and child health, pregnancy, and childbirth; promotion of maternal employment; gender equality in the labour market and home; support for paternal time with children; involvement of parents in infants' care; and efforts to ensure that babies start their growth and development in decent circumstances. Debates about the importance of the first few years of life have been ongoing for several years, however it was only recently that policies targeted at young children and their families become an important focus of public policy. This increasing focus on the importance of childcare led to the policy interests in leave and early childhood education and care, driven by employment and gender equality goals. It has also led to the increasing interest in the reconciliation of work and family life or ‘work-life balance’. It is this context of the importance of the early years for many policy fields that forms the focus of this book. It looks at the developments in fifteen advanced industrialised countries and the EU with regard to parental leave policies. The focus is on the formation of policy and not on its outcomes. In particular, the book looks at the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘how’ of leave policies. It also discusses the major components of these policies as well as the diverse forms they take. It also tackles the policy choices that have been made, the influential actors in policy formation, the major policy changes, and the policy decisions that have been made. This concluding chapter discusses the policy-making process, the history of leave policies, and the politics of parental leave policies. In particular, it retraces maternal and infant health; fertility and population policies; labour market trends and policies; gender equality; political factors including political actors and institutions; social actors; governance; and the international influence of leave policies.
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