Journal Article

Work/Family Policy in France: From State Familialism to State Feminism?

Anne Revillard

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 20, issue 2, pages 133-150
Published in print August 2006 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online May 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Work/Family Policy in France: From State Familialism to State Feminism?

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When one looks at the policies that target the relationship between work and family (here labelled ‘work/family policies’), contradictory views come from France. On the one hand, the state recognition of family interests is very strong, and was initially rooted in familialism, an ideology that promotes the family as an institution, and has often played against women’s rights. On the other hand, women’s – and especially mothers’ – labour force participation has always been relatively high compared to other western countries. To account for this ‘French paradox’, this paper puts work/family policies into historical perspective, in order to analyse them as a mix of policies coming from various public policy institutions (work, education, family). While state familialism has always been strong in France, it has been challenged and shattered by several social and political trends since the 1960s. Among these is the development of ‘state feminism’, with the creation of governmental bodies endowed with the formal mission of furthering women’s rights. Based on an empirical study of these institutions, this paper shows how they reframed work/family policy in terms of a policy of equality in employment.

Journal Article.  8411 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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