Continuity and change in family policies of the new European democracies: A comparison of Poland, Hungary and Romania

Our disaggregated analysis of family policy developments since 2000 reveals new opportunities for path departure in all three countries, with political actors (and policy entrepreneurs) and ideational shifts playing a major role. Individual and group policy entrepreneurs in Poland, organizations of large families in Poland and Hungary, and local government activists and middle class women in Romania skillfully exploited domestic political channels and newly available international assistance from the European Union to influence policy change in family allowances, childcare, and social assistance. Still, Poland represents the only example of an attempted “paradigmatic” shift in family policy across the board, dealing with several major program areas at once. Even there, however, the proposed changes fall short of a dramatic overhaul of the core programs such as the major cash transfers for the families and children. In all instances, the most powerful players faced formidable obstacles in the form of institutional legacies of preexisting programs.

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