- freely available
Soc. Sci. 2015, 4(1), 134-147; doi:10.3390/socsci4010134
“Family matters can be considered as a specific area of social policy, but not all governments would claim to have an explicit family policy remit. Within the European context, the term ‘family policy’ is generally used to characterise policies that identify families as the deliberate target of specific actions, and where the measures initiated are designed to have an impact on family resources and, ultimately, on family structure, as is the case for child or family benefits”(, p. 2)
“Social protection systems associated with employment assume that the core of the labor force is male and, consequently, the family depends on a man as its main supplier”(, p. 23)
“The Washington Consensus advocated use of a small set of instruments (including macroeconomic stability, liberalized trade, and privatization) to achieve a relatively narrow goal (economic growth). The Post-Washington Consensus recognizes both that a broader set of instruments is necessary and that our goals are also much broader. We seek increases in living standards—including improved health and education—not just increases in measured GDP. We seek sustainable development, which includes preserving natural resources and maintaining a healthy environment. We seek equitable development, which ensures that all groups in society, not just those at the top, enjoy the fruits of development. And we seek democratic development, in which citizens participate in a variety of ways in making the decisions that affect their lives”(, p. 31)
2. Familist Policies in the 1990s: Economic Liberalism, Assistentialism, and the Fight against Poverty
3. Familism and Policies in the Transition to the New Millennium: Towards a New Instrumentalization of Families?
“Latin American families provide social support and protection against economic crises, unemployment, illness and death of some of its members. As social capital, the family is a resource of great value, since the limited social coverage in some countries of the region regarding work, health and social security, transforms the family in the only institution of social protection against unemployment, disease, migration and other traumatic events”(, p. 10)
“In this sense, despite the discursive emphasis on the centrality of the family and the fundamental role assigned to women (in the administration of transfers and the operation of programs), what happens ‘within the families’, i.e., the displacements of income, negotiations, perverse effects, conflicts and overlaps of power, remains a black box for program design”(, p. 275)
4. The Latin American System of Social Protection in the XXI Century: Strengthening Motherhood or Democratizing Families?
“...over the last 10 years, the region has seen a major transformation of its social protection matrix and in its social policies generally. […] this transformation have a very different orientation than those of the reform of the 1980s and early 1990s. While that era saw a major retreat from, and downscaling of, State social action (reduction or freezing of social spending, privatization, close targeting, financing of demand, etc.), the new century has seen an expansion of State action in social areas (broader coverages; partial or full re-nationalization; increased social spending; combination of vectors of need, supply and demand to determine investment and fiscal effort).”(, p. 31)
- The restoration of the state’s role in establishing a “social protection floor” that combines a minimum of economic security with access to basic services (universal coverage grounded on citizen’s rights);
- The tendency to make families the explicit targeting of policies, giving a central role to women in their role as mothers (maternalist tradition);
- A gradual increase of services aimed at relieving family care;
- A significant reduction in the gap between pensions for men and women, as a result of the reforms of retirements and pensions systems; and,
- A weakness or absence of policies reconciling waged labor and the domestic labor of women, as well as policies promoting the democratization of family work.
“The traditional welfare regime in Latin America is premised on the model of the male breadwinner and the female homemaker caring for children and older persons. Both the empirical evidence and the normative principles seriously challenge this vision today. In other words, there is no way to resolve the care crisis without redistributing the burdens of paid work, unpaid work and care work. It is not enough to lobby for ways to reconcile the paid and unpaid work performed by women. What is needed is for the State and public policy to make simultaneous progress on various fronts.”(, p. 212)
Gross Domestic Product
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
Conditional Cash Transfer programs
International Labour Organization
Social Protection Floor
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Inter-American Development Bank
Conflicts of Interest
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- 1This article is an expanded and modified version of the author’s presentation “Social policies towards families in the new millennium: Argentina and Latin America” at the International Seminar “Engaging with Families Facing Complex Difficulties”, at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, on 19 June 2013.
- 2Developmentalism (desarrollismo) is a political-economic paradigm related to theories developed by ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) economists from the 1950s through the early 1970s. Its distinguishing feature is the promotion of inward-oriented development programs to accelerate growth rates, based on import-substitution industrialization, export taxes, and duties on manufactured imports. In this model, the state is regarded as the crucial agent for the strengthening of internal market, and national economic growth.
- 3The term Washington Consensus is usually associated with the precepts of economic adjustment, administrative shrinking of the state, and social policies targeted at the poor. The Post-Washington Consensus emerged out of criticism towards the former, which led to economic instability, rising unemployment and deepening social inequalities in many countries.
- 4The residual model places in the market the leading role of managing social risks, leaving to the state only “unacceptable” risks, such as extreme poverty.
- 5The plan provided a monthly allowance in exchange for work in productive projects or community services. It was aimed at male or female heads of unemployed households with children up to 18 years of age or disabled of any age, and at households where the female spouse—concubine or cohabiting household head—was in a state of pregnancy. It was also meant to secure children’s school attendance and health control, and to include beneficiaries into formal education, and/or job training activities that could contribute to their future re-employment.
- 6This concept of development took shape in the various summits organized by the United Nations–—in particular the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and the World Development Summit in Copenhagen in 1995.
- 7Defining risk as undesirable fluctuations—predictable or not—that might generate welfare losses, the WB proposes a strategy for managing social risk through the use of informal systems (e.g., the self-protection strategies of households), market systems (e.g., financial assets and insurance policies) and public sector systems (e.g., state intervention).
- 8Since its origins in the 1940s, the Argentine system of social security has been characterized by the centrality of social insurances that deal with risks related to the activities of workers, such as retirements covering the impossibility to work due to advanced age, health care and family allowances.
- 9This subsidy gives the right to medical and dental benefits, and is inconsistent with the other benefits of the Sistema Único de Prestaciones Familiares (Single Family Benefit System), the Pensión Básica Solidaria (Basic Solidarity Pension), and the subsidy for mental disability .
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