Government strategies for supporting the adult worker model in European countries: Mixed implications for defamilisation

Sam Wai Kam Yu , Iris Po Yee Lo, Ruby Chui Man Chau

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Purpose: This article explores the link between defamilisation studies and studies of the adult worker model and discusses the mixed implications that government strategies for supporting the adult worker model have for defamilisation. The adult worker model emphasises that all adult men and women ought to engage in formal employment; defamilisation studies stress the importance of enhancing women's chances of choosing (not) to perform important family roles such as the receiver of financial support and the care provider. Design/methodology/approach: Two new strategies (“condition building” and “rewarding/penalising”) for promoting the adult worker model are identified based on literature review; their empirical significance is explored through an examination of comparative data concerning early childhood education and care policies (ECEC) and reforms in pension age in 14 countries. Findings: The evidence shows that promoting the adult worker model does not necessarily benefit all women. While the 14 countries provide ECEC to varying extents, the increase in pension age in most countries shows that governments adopt a “rewarding/penalising” strategy for promoting the adult worker model by allocating major welfare based on people's labour force participation. These pension reforms may generate a negative impact on women's chances of attaining financial autonomy. Originality/value: This study presents two new strategies for promoting the adult worker model and shows the empirical significance of these strategies based on comparative data. It also highlights the importance of searching for alternative concepts, namely economic defamilisation, for guiding pension reforms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021


  • Adult worker model
  • Defamilisation
  • Family policy
  • Pension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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