This project investigates the re-negotiation of gender relations in post-communist Europe by focusing on family policies, such as parental leave benefits, child allowances and access to daycare. Since a growing consensus is emerging about the enormous influence of family policies on shaping gender relations, this study begins by analyzing the development of family polices in two Post- Communist countries, Poland and the Czech Republic, to ascertain their goals, outcomes and determinants. Have policies changed to promote greater gender equality or have they changed rather to induce women to return to the home? Second, it analyzes reasons for possible divergences in family policy between the two cases. Third, it investigates the possible influence that policy ideas generated in Germany, Sweden and the EU have had on shaping policies in Poland and the Czech Republic. The overriding research question in the project is: How can we explain the orientation of current family policies in Poland and the Czech Republic and what role has policy learning from abroad, in particular from the Sweden, German and the EU, played in shaping these policies? So far, it appears that despite evidence of its counter-productive effects on female labor market participation and birth rates, Post-Communist countries are basically copying the conservative German family policy model, rather than the Swedish. This points to the importance of trying to understand why countries choose the policies they do.
The theoretical framework of the project is based on previous research on policy determinants. In particular, we focus on the emerging research on idea diffusion and policy transfer and the role played by the European Union in such processes. The research methods used in the project are primarily qualitative in orientation, such as policy document analysis and interviews. However, we will also use databases and surveys in order to describe policy outcomes as well as attitudes towards gender equality in the four countries and EU at large. The project is believed to add greatly to our understanding of how family policies are formed in Post-Communist Europe and the role of Western influence in such processes. It is innovative also in that draws on pervious research and theoretical models generated in Western-oriented social science to shred light on current policy developments in Eastern Europe.