Through an analysis of recent reforms in three policy areas in Chile—pensions, childcare services, and maternity/parental leave—the paper seeks to explore how equity-oriented reforms deal with the triple legacy of maternalism, male-breadwinner bias, and market reform. Recent studies of “new” social policies in Latin America have underlined the persistent strength of maternalist assumptions. Feminist research on new cash transfer programs, in particular, has tended to see more continuity than change in the gendered underpinnings of social policy. This paper suggests that once we broaden our ﬁeld of vision to include other social programs and reforms, the ways in which contemporary social policy (re)deﬁnes women’s productive and reproductive roles, social rights, and obligations are more complex and contradictory. Indeed, while some policies take unpaid care by women for granted, others point to an increasing awareness of inequalities Staab that shape women’s and men’s differential access to market income and public social beneﬁts.
Over the last decade, there has been a veritable explosion of scholarship on Latin American social policy. In part this reﬂects the fact that—after decades of neglect—Latin American states have rediscovered social policy and scaled up their efforts to address the social fallout of liberalization. Indeed, while “Washington Consensus” reforms were mainly driven by the desire to cut costs and reduce the scope of the state, the late 1990s and 2000s have seen more coordinated state interventions to reduce poverty, inequality, and social exclusion. While not returning to post-war social protection schemes, countries in the region are experimenting with policies that break with the neoliberal notion of minimal safety nets (Barrientos et al. 2008; Molyneux 2008; Cortes 2009). ´ What does this “return of the state” mean for women’s social rights and welfare? It has been argued that in contrast to the gender blindness of neoliberal reforms, “new” social policies have been gender conscious (Bedford 2007). However, relatively little systematic research has been carried out on the gender dynamics of this new social agenda (Macdonald and Ruckert 2009).
The existing literature seems to suggest that there is far more continuity than change in the gendered underpinnings of “new” social protection programs. Feminist research on conditional cash transfers (CCTs)—a key innovation associated with Post-Washington Consensus social policy in the region—has tended to stress the persistence of maternalism (e.g., Molyneux 2007; Bradshaw 2008; Tabbush 2009), a set of ideas and practices with a long and ambiguous history in the region. Yet there is more to Post-Washington Consensus social policy than CCTs. Several Latin American countries are experimenting with other care-related policies alongside cash transfer schemes— including the introduction of full-day schooling, the expansion of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, maternity/ parental leave reforms, and in recent pension reforms, the introduction of child-rearing credits. While some of these programs take the unpaid care by women for granted, others point to an increasing awareness of gender inequalities that shape women’s and men’s differential access to labor market income and public social beneﬁts.
That these initiatives have received little scholarly attention leaves the impression that Latin American social policy is stuck on a maternalist track, when national and regional trends are likely to be more varied and complex. Against this broader backdrop, the main aim of the paper is to provide a better understanding of the complex and contradictory ways in which women’s productive and reproductive roles, social rights, and obligations are constructed and (re)deﬁned in the context of recent equity-oriented reforms. I argue for a two-tiered approach. First, I propose to move beyond single policy analysis towards a more systemic view that takes into account and compares developments across sectors. Second, I aim to assess these reforms according to the ways in which they have dealt with three key legacies: marketization, maternalism, and male-breadwinner bias. I apply this approach to the recent reforms in Chilean social policy, a particularly intriguing case.
First, Chile is often cited as the Latin American country where neoliberal principles have been most comprehensively applied. Its 1980s social sector reforms–particularly in pensions and health–have long been promoted by international ﬁnancial institutions as a model for other countries to emulate (Taylor 2003; Orenstein 2005). Recent innovations in Chile’s social policy regime thus merit close attention. Second, Chile combines market liberalism with strong social conservatism, particularly with regards to gender roles.
We would expect these two legacies to create mounting tensions and contradictions –for example over whether mothers should be at home (maternalism) or in the market (liberalism)–that social and employment policies have to navigate. I have chosen to focus on the recent reforms in pension, ECEC, and parental leave policies, issues which have been high up the public agenda in Chile and elsewhere. This is reﬂective of both broader global discourses spearheaded by international organizations such as the World Bank and the OECD, as well as a regional trend to revising social protection frameworks with an
emphasis on increasing the coverage of hitherto excluded groups.1 The selection thus consciously combines two more traditional policy areas associated with social protection/consumption (pensions and maternity leave), with an emerging area geared towards social investment (ECEC). While the former were directly undermined by structural adjustment and deliberately restructured following the advice of international ﬁnancial institutions (Orenstein 2005; Brooks 2009), the latter have acquired prominence over the past decades as a means of reducing poverty by facilitating women’s labor force participation and as a cost-efﬁcient tool to promote human capital development by investing in early childhood development. These ideas form part of an emerging global paradigm (Jenson and Saint-Martin 2003; Jenson 2010; Mahon 2010) and seem to have ﬁltered down to the national level with several Latin American countries experimenting with childcare-related reforms.2 The combination of protection and promotion implicit in this selection is also highly relevant from a gender perspective.
While childcare services and parental leaves can facilitate women’s engagement in paid employment, pension systems can be designed in ways that translate labor market inequalities into unequal entitlements in old age. They thus represent two sides of the same problem, namely the extent to which the gender division of labor affects women’s and men’s differential access to income and social security. The remainder of the paper is structured as follows.
The next section brieﬂy illustrates the rationale for choosing marketization, maternalism, and male-breadwinner bias as key dimensions for assessing continuity and change. It takes a historical and regional perspective to show how they became embedded in Latin American systems of social provision. The second half of the paper then provides a detailed analysis of recent reforms in Chilean pension, childcare, and maternity leave policies. The ﬁnal section draws out some comparative conclusions about the extent to which the recent reforms have dealt with the key legacies of marketization, maternalism, and male-breadwinner bias.
Maternalism, Male-Breadwinner Bias, and Market Reform Trajectories of welfare state formation and change in Latin America are in many ways different from those of advanced economies in Europe or North America that have formed the basis for theory building. The most important difference is probably the dynamism and radicalism with which development strategies have been recast over the last century (Sheahan 2002, 4). Thus, many countries moved from state-led import-substituting industrialization (ISI) in the post-war period to the rather radical application of neoliberal prescriptions following the recessions and debt crises of the late 1970s and early 1980s. These transitions left distinct legacies in systems of social provision.
From the often incomplete formation of welfare institutions in the post-war era, governments in the region turned to retrenchment, deregulation, and privatization. Redistributive and universalist aspirations—however exclusionary or stratifying these had been in practice (Filgueira and Filgueira 2002)—were buried with the shift to market-led development and the region moved closer towards liberal-informal welfare regimes (Barrientos 2004). As the state was scaled back, reforms empowered business interests which became directly involved in education, health, and pension systems.3 Gender roles and norms as well as pervasive gender inequalities across states, markets, and households mediate women’s and men’s exposure to social risks as well as their speciﬁc need for social protection and services. Women face particular challenges due to motherhood and other caring responsibilities that societies largely assign to them (Lewis 1992; O’Connor 1993; Orloff 1993). Yet, these risks and responsibilities have rarely been taken into account in the design of social policies.
Thus, Bismarck-style social insurance systems, such as those founded across Latin American countries in the post-war period, had an inherent male-breadwinner bias.4 Women, in turn, tended to access social beneﬁts as wives of a male breadwinner or as mothers whose maternal functions had to be safeguarded and protected (Gimenez 2005). Motherhood became the ´ very basis on which women staked their claims to citizenship rights and states deployed their efforts to mobilize female constituencies. At the heart of this “civic maternalism” was the belief that women– and in particular their biological and social function as mothers– had to be recognized, valued, and protected (Molyneux 2000).5 This was, in Nancy Folbre’s words, the “patriarchal trunk” onto which market reform was grafted, but which “continues to inﬂuence the shape of the tree” (Interviewed by Razavi 2011). A large body of literature has documented how structural adjustment increased the overall burden on women.
Thus, where privatization and trade liberalization triggered a rise in male unemployment, women were pushed into (largely informal) paid employment to make up for lost wages. Meanwhile, retrenchment and commercialization of social services shifted more responsibilities for social provision to the domestic sphere, where the prevailing gender division of labor meant that women spent more time on unpaid reproductive work (Benerıa and Feldman 1992; Sparr 1994; and Elson 1995). In ´ social protection systems, the move from risk sharing to individualization exacerbated already existing gender inequalities. By tightening the relationship between contributory patterns and pension beneﬁts, market reforms effectively deepened male-breadwinner bias (Dion 2008). In health, private insurance companies were given plenty of rope for deﬁning premiums based on gender-speciﬁc “risks”, such as pregnancy (Gideon 2006). As a result, the costs of biological and social reproduction were further individualized and passed on to women.
Paradoxically, maternalism remained a strong theme in the neoliberal era, at least at the level of public discourse (Molyneux 2000). In short, market reforms layered new gender inequalities onto the already existing legacies of maternalism and male-breadwinner bias. As a result, conservative elements exist alongside (neo)liberal elements in the contemporary welfare architecture of many Latin American countries. How are these legacies challenged or compounded by the current wave of policy innovations and reform? If the state is indeed assuming greater responsibility for social provision, does this trend provide a more favorable context for redressing gender inequalities? More particularly, does it reﬂect a greater recognition and redistribution of the responsibilities for and costs of care and social reproduction?
The existing literature suggests that there is far more continuity than change in gendered assumptions even as new social programs are being rolled out: Recent studies have argued, for example, that new social programs have paid scant, if any, attention to the underlying structures of gender inequality in labor markets and households (Razavi 2007); that economic and social policies continue to place the burden of social reproduction on families (read: women); that the particular design of social programs tends to reinforce traditional gender roles without providing long-term strategies for women’s economic security through job training or childcare provision (Molyneux 2007; Tabbush 2009); and that new social policies increase social control and surveillance of mothers’ child-rearing behavior and performance (Luccisano and Wall 2009). Feminist research on CCTs, in particular, has tended to stress the persistence of maternalist orientations (e.g., Molyneux 2007; Bradshaw 2008; Tabbush 2009).
This literature has been central for understanding the gendered nature of “new” social policies in the region and much remains to be learned about the actual diversity of ´ these programs (Martınez Franzoni and Voorend 2009) and their impact on women from different ethnic groups (Hernandez 2011; ´ Rivera 2011). Analytically, however, the focus on a single scheme is insufﬁcient to assess the processes through which women’s productive and reproductive roles, social rights, and obligations are currently being (re)deﬁned. Several Latin American countries are experimenting with other social policies alongside the much-cited CCTs, including the introduction of full-day schooling, the expansion of ECEC services, maternity/parental leave reforms, and the introduction of child-rearing credits in recent pension reforms.
In each of these areas, equity-oriented reformers struggle with the legacies of maternalism and male-breadwinner bias, on the one hand, and the (ideological and de-facto) importance of markets, on the other hand. I argue that these struggles shape reform processes and outcomes in ways that are more complex and contradictory than the existing literature on CCTs suggests. The following analysis of Chilean social policy sets out to unravel some of these complexities by looking at the recent reforms in pensions, childcare, and leave regulations. Implicit in this approach is an understanding of the state as a concept that helps to contextualize present political conﬂicts and policy processes (Hay and Lister 2006). In other words, previously enacted policies, institutional choices, and strategic interactions constitute a “strategically selective terrain” (Jessop 1990, 203) that structures present political conﬂict, rendering it more conducive to some demands than others.
While not determining their behavior, the ensemble of institutions and policy frameworks that comprise the state offer opportunities to and impose constraints on, the political agency of those wishing to effect policy change. The three legacies outlined above form part of the institutional landscape of the state. As such, they are shown to play a signiﬁcant role in current attempts of reform and policy innovation. While these legacies constitute the main focus of this paper, they are by no means the only factor that shape change and continuity in Chilean social policy. In fact, sector-speciﬁc actors, partisan politics, and particular political contingencies come into play to differing degrees.
Furthermore, the continuity and deepening of an economic model based on trade openness, macroeconomic stability, monetary, and ﬁscal discipline and ﬂexible employment, forms the backdrop against which more expansive social policies have emerged as a response to persistent inequality. However, the full meaning of recent reforms cannot be understood without taking into account the gender-speciﬁc legacies in each sector. (En)gendering Change and Continuity: Recent reforms in Chile Chile is a particularly intriguing case for analyzing continuity and change in social policy. On the one hand, it is often portrayed as the country where neoliberal principles have most profoundly transformed economic, social, and political institutions (Kurtz 1999; Filgueira and Filgueira 2002).
While radical market reforms were carried out under the aegis of a military dictatorship (1973–1989), many of the model’s features were maintained with the return to democracy. Consequently, the country’s policy framework is often represented as particularly resistant to equity-oriented change. On the other hand, Chile combines market liberalism with social conservatism—two features that conventional welfare regime analysis tends to locate in different clusters (the conservative and the liberal variant, respectively). Female labor force participation is among the lowest in the region (ECLAC 2008), the country’s welfare regime has been described as inherently “gender biased” (Pribble 2006, 86), and conservative social norms regarding women’s role in the family loom large (Contreras and Plaza 2010).6 Despite this rather unfavorable context, recent reforms suggest that these frameworks are not carved in stone. Since the early 2000s efforts to expand social protection, to improve access to and quality of social services and to strengthen social rights have featured prominently on the country’s social agenda, leading some to argue that Chile may be approaching a “point of inﬂection” (Illanes and Riesco 2007, 406).
The following sections shed light on the complex and contradictory ways in which the triple legacy of maternalism, male-breadwinner bias, and market reform is addressed by recent reforms in pensions (adopted in 2008), childcare services (signiﬁcantly expanded since 2006), and maternity leave (reformed in 2011). Before delving more deeply into the developments in each sector, it is necessary to brieﬂy describe the broader economic and political context since the country’s return to democracy in 1990. Context of Recent Reforms and Policy Innovations The return to democracy did not entail a drastic transformation of the institutional foundations of economic and social policy inherited from the military regime (Moulian 2002; Taylor 2003; Borzutzky 2010).
In fact, in macroeconomic terms the center-left party coalition Concertacion that governed the country from 1990 ´ to 2010 validated and deepened the neoliberal model based on trade openness, macroeconomic stability, monetary and ﬁscal discipline and ﬂexible employment. To offset some of its worst effects, social spending increased steadily which, together with economic growth and employment creation, dramatically reduced absolute poverty from 38.6 percent in 1990 to 13.7 percent in 2006 (ECLAC 2008), although it did relatively little to improve income distribution or lessen social inequalities and fragmentation in education, health, and social protection (Solimano 2009).
Explanations for this continuity are manifold, including the formidable constraints placed on the autonomy of the ﬁrst Concertacion governments by authoritarian enclaves in the political ´ system that granted right-wing political opposition important veto powers; the resistance of business interests whose power increased as a result of market reforms; the weakness of other civil society actors, particularly labor; a political culture eager to avoid the kind of political confrontation that preceded the military coup; and the adoption of market-oriented ideas by key decision makers within the centerleft coalition itself (e.g. Kurtz 2003; Castiglioni 2005; Borzutzky and Weeks 2010; Ewig and Kay 2011). The result of this complex and contradictory process has been described as a Chilean “Third Way” characterized by an “unwavering commitment to trade liberalization and privatization despite considerable public opposition” and a “predisposition to a policy process that discourages participation by civil society and rank-and-ﬁle party members, while affording business access to the highest reaches of government” (Sandbrook et al. 2007, 164–65).
This set-up makes some policy areas more amenable to equity-enhancing reforms and innovations than others. As the economic model rests upon a ﬂexible and restrictive labor regime (Frank 2004), social policy is largely conﬁned to enhancing workers’ ability to compete on the market and to mitigating some of the worst risks that unregulated and precarious employment entails. This goes a long way to explain why the two socialist-led governments of Ricardo Lagos (2000–2006) and Michelle Bachelet (2006–2010) spearheaded health reform, pension reform and childcare service expansion in order to enhance equity, while shying away from reforms related to the country’s labor market where many of the fundamental social inequalities originate. While the Bachelet administration’s employment policy and labor relations have been described as disappointing, (Lopez 2009; ´ Sehnbruch 2009), it did turn social protection into a key priority. The conceptual pillars of her strategy included a life-course approach to social protection and the attempt to introduce a rights-based perspective (Hardy 2011).
The latter materialized in a gradual lifting of budgetary restrictions on social assistance7 and the progressive relaxation of eligibility requirements for accessing a range of beneﬁts. The life-course approach, in turn, is captured in repeatedly stated commitments to create equal opportunities and protect citizens “from the cradle to old age”. Tellingly, its translation into policy focused on the two extremes of the life course, namely the reform of the pension system and Chile Crece Contigo, an integrated early childhood protection system that included the massive expansion of childcare services. The working-age population remained caught in the middle with persistently low employment quality, including a high level of job instability and the limited reach of employment-based rights and beneﬁts, a scenario that disproportionately affects women workers (Sehnbruch 2009).
8 Thus, the attempt to square greater equity and social inclusion with an open economy inﬂuenced the scope and locus of policy change during the Bachelet administration. While acquiring greater visibility, social protection remained subordinate to macroeconomic goals, including those related to employment, understood as not interfering with job creation through greater regulation and rights for workers. In this context, it is particularly surprising that a highly controversial employment-related reform was introduced under the new right-wing government of Sebastian Pinera (2010) which, in ˜ ´ 2011, expanded (women) workers’ rights through a reform of maternity leave regulations.