Changes in European Welfare State Regimes as a Response to Fertility Trends: Family Policy Perspective


  • Suzana Bornarova University, Ss Cyril and Methodius-Skopje
  • Natasha Bogoevska
  • Svetlana Trbojevik



family, fertility, welfare states, family policy models.


Following 1945, that is the Second World War, Europe faced a huge demographic increase in the number of births, known as baby-boom. Encouraged by the improvement of the living conditions after the devastating war, the return of the optimism, opening of the employment opportunities and the renewal of the idea about the family, this demographic trend entailed the so-called familism tide. In the mid 1960-ies however, demographic indicators in almost all European countries began to change suddenly. Massive development of contraception, increased birth control and family planning, as well as higher employment of women and their integration in the labour market, took place. As a result of these trends, in the 1970-ties European countries faced a considerable drop in fertility rates. This trend reached its peak during 1970-1980-ties when a dramatic drop in fertility rates took place, known as baby-bust. As a consequence, almost everywhere in Europe, the fertility rate dropped below the level needed for simple population reproduction or below 2.1 children per woman. Several related trends also contributed to the change in the demographic picture of Europe, such as: dropping birthrates, shrinking of the population, delay in births (increase in the age of birth of the first child), increase in the number of one-child families, as well as growth in the number of couples without children (universality of births is no longer present – at least 1 child per family). Similar trends are evidenced in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CIE), with one considerable difference – they took place around a decade later compared to the developed European countries. One common characteristic which shaped the demographic changes in CIE countries was the fact that they occurred simultaneously with the radical changes of the societal system from socialism towards democracy in the 1990-ties. Due to this, demographic changes in CIE countries gain in weight, are furthermore under the influence of the transitional processes and thus differ considerably compared to those in the developed countries. The differences are heavily attributable to two sets of factors: a) different institutional settings, especially in the family policies related to employment of women and child raising; and b) different effects of these family policies upon fertility rates and participation of women in the labour market. Given the above demographic trends, welfare states in Europe, adjust accordingly, predominantly through the policies and measures of family policy as one of the social policy domains. Following a detailed statistical analysis of demographic indicators in Europe, this paper will produce an analysis of the family policy responses to demographic trends based on the Esping-Andersens’ classification of welfare states: universal welfare states (Nordic countries); conservative welfare states (Continental European countries); liberal social states (Anglo-Saxon countries) and South-European social states (Mediterranean countries). A specific focus in the paper will be also given to the demographic trends and corresponding family policy developments in the Republic of Macedonia, as a country of South Europe. Cross-cutting issues in the analysis of the family policy models will be: the extent to which family policies are gender-neutral or gender-specific (are they women-friendly and do they promote active fatherhood?), measures for harmonization of work and family life (are women appropriately supported in performing their roles of mothers and active participants in the labour market at the same time) and the scope in which family policy is being designed to serve the purposes of population policy (how the concern and the interest of the state to increase fertility rates shapes family policy?).