razavi1_ Mahmut Serdar AlakusAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_ Mahmut Serdar Alakus/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Social Policy Starts at Home

By designing a policy package around the needs of contemporary families, political leaders can promote women’s rights, children’s development, and employment. The same policies would therefore be a boon to economic growth and poverty reduction.

NEW YORK – Political economy has come a long way. Many figures and institutions that have long embraced neoliberalism increasingly recognize the failures of markets and acknowledge that states may have a role to play in improving socioeconomic outcomes. Even the International Monetary Fund now discusses the “macro-criticality” of social protection, the need for progressive taxation, and, potentially, universal transfers.

But the conversation – which focuses almost exclusively on coordination between state and market – remains too narrow to produce effective solutions. For that, as a new report by UN Women shows, social factors – especially the role of families and gender equality – must also be included.

These two factors are inextricably linked, with gender inequalities being heavily reinforced by family dynamics, in a way that, say, racial inequalities are not. The problem is compounded by the fact that outdated assumptions about families and gender dynamics continue to shape social and economic policymaking.