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Doing Better for Families

image of Doing Better for Families

All OECD governments want to give parents more choice in their work and family decisions. This book looks at the different ways in which governments support families. It seeks to provide answers to questions like: Is spending on family benefits going up, and how does it vary by the age of the child? Has the crisis affected public support for families? What is the best way of helping adults to have the number of children they desire? What are the effects of parental leave programmes on female labour supply and on child well-being? Are childcare costs a barrier to parental employment and can flexible workplace options help? What is the best time for mothers to go back to work after childbirth? And what are the best policies to reduce poverty among sole parents?

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Promoting child development and child well-being

Despite increases in average family incomes, child poverty has edged up over the past three decades. Today, more than one in ten OECD children lives in poverty. Beyond poverty, infant mortality rates are falling and the proportion of children born weighing less than 2.5 kilograms is on the rise. Moreover, inequalities in health, education and material well-being raise concerns about children being left behind in a number of OECD countries. More mothers with young children are in paid work than in the past. There is a longrunning debate on possible negative effects of maternal employment on child development. For the first time, this chapter presents results from panel data studies on child outcomes in different OECD countries to help answer the question: what is a good moment for mothers to go back to paid work? The evidence suggests that a return to paid work by mothers within six months after childbirth may have negative effects on child outcomes, but the effects are small and, in certain circumstances, balanced by positive effects related to earning extra family income. The evidence in the literature on the effects of parental leave policies on child well-being is mixed, and the cross-national analysis in this chapter finds no evidence of significant positive or negative effects of parental leave reform on child well-being either.

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