Twentieth century social policy in industrial nations was originally formulated on the assumption that one particular family model was both the most prevalent and the most desirable. A family was supposed to consist of a married couple — one male breadwinner and one female homemaker — and their children, and the wages of a man were assumed to be enough to support a wife and children. Almost all women were assumed to be housewives.
Accordingly, women and children’s access to market income was organized through marriage, as was their access to social insurance. Male workers could claim social insurance benefits for themselves and their dependents from the state, unions, employers and other institutions, but women seldom had any way to make claims independently. When husbands died, widows with children could draw pensions from the state and/or receive aid from the husband’s union, while women without husbands usually had no legal way to make such claims. At the same time, work was organized on the assumption that all men were married to women who could devote their time and labor to the care of children.Topics of Expertise: Labor and Workforce / Work & Family