The Every-Day of German Family Policy Reform: New and Old Disparities in the Organisation of Childcare

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:05
Location: Hörsaal 6C P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Nina SUESSE, King's College London, United Kingdom
Comparative welfare state theory has discussed at length the German welfare model, either in terms of welfare regimes or varieties of capitalism. A major point of interest and contention therein has been the question of institutional change and reproduction in German welfare provision. Seeleib-Kaiser, in an examination of political discourse, points towards a “dual transformation” of the welfare state, in which the social insurance state, targeted at income maintenance of the male-breadwinner, faces retrenchment. Simultaneously, family policy is moving to the centre-stage of social policy discussion and expanding despite constraints of austerity. This dynamic of reforms creates new disparities in the distribution of social protection. Existing explanations largely focus on macro comparative theory or policy-maker discourse. I argue that these approaches tend to miss how reforms and changes in political rhetoric are implemented and diffused through the layers of organisations in everyday life. To critically assess and complement existing accounts of German welfare state transformation, I intend to map how reforms are enacted in daily life, focussed on the case of childcare.

Germany has substantially expanded its public childcare programme, pointing to a need to improve work-family life reconciliation. Debate has also taken up themes of gender equality, working conditions of care-workers and the cultural and educational integration of children. In tracing how formal policy changes and wider discursive themes were taken up by local actors, I begin with the experience of public childcare managers and trace the discourses they engage with vertically as well as horizontally in different German locations. I explicate thereby how extra-local policy information traverses within institutional networks and how actors experience and enact policy locally.