Belgian family policy from a comparative perspective: does it support fertility and gender equity?


  • Ester Rizzi Centre de recherche en démographie Université catholique de Louvain
  • Alice Rees Centre de recherche en démographie, Université Catholique de Louvain



Family policies, leave policies, time credit, Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden


The aim of this article is to compare the Belgian family policy to policies in other countries within the so-called conservative welfare state regime group, namely, France, Germany and the Netherlands, and to the policy applied in one country that has adopted a social-democratic model, i.e., Sweden. Based on previous studies, we aim to identify strengths and weaknesses according to two criteria: efficacy in promoting fertility and promoting gender equity, the latter being understood as mothers’ involvement in the labour market and fathers’ involvement in care. We maintain that the Belgian family policy presents several features that have the potential to positively affect fertility. Such positive features mainly pertain to family allowances and birth premiums, together with enrolment rates for children under three years of age (albeit with worrisome, low public spending on childcare). However, other aspects of the Belgian policy are more critical for gender equity. Such aspects include the remuneration of parental leave and time credit, a lack of radical reforms to support fathers’ involvement, and regional disparities in several family policy measures. Counterintuitively, short durations for maternity leave and parental leave might also negatively affect gender equity.