Which Countries Are the Most Friendly to Families?

This new Index promises to be an invaluable tool to the international pro-family and pro-life movement.

(photo: Image credit: Bill Branson, via Wikimedia Commons)

A potentially game-changing new instrument in aid of the family was unveiled last Friday by the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference, in a presentation on “Family mainstreaming — A departure point from demographic and cultural crisis in Europe.”

The Catholic University of Milan and the Novae Terrae Foundation, after two years of joint research, presented their first report on the family from a worldwide perspective, based on a newly-developed Independent Global Index on Family (IGIF).

The Index has two goals: to analyze and quantify the essential characteristics of the family, with a specific focus on internal and external relationships; and to examine and compare the support structures for ‘starting a family’ in different geographical and cultural contexts.

The IGIF is based on 19 comparable indicators across 46 countries. The analysis originates from the definition of family as “the stable relationship between two hetero people. It is based on marriage and it has the purpose of procreation. It should focus on sexual differences and reciprocity, intergenerational solidarity and the principle of non-remuneration.”

This work has two main goals: to identify if the social tendency towards stable family relationships is going to increase or decrease in the future; and to identify if the family will be supported by appropriate resources.

In order to achieve these goals, the Index defines key indicators that can be classified by four categories: structural organization of the family (marriage and parenting), resources for the family to perform its responsibilities in everyday life (personal care services, work, family policies), exchanges between members inside and outside the family and finally, the presence of non-remunerative acts within the unit.

The United States is ranked at 29th place, with a birth rate of 1.8 children per couple, a motherhood transition age of 25.4 years, a diffusion of cohabitation of 7.1%, and a divorce rate of 2.8%. A different system of tax deductions based on the number of children is in place, but it is a matter for the states — and there is an average of about 1.19% of public spending directed towards family benefits.

Canada has a lower fertility rate (1.6 children per couple), a higher transition to motherhood (28.1 years) and a similar proportion of federal investment per family.

The Index is composed of four sub-indices: the Structure sub-index (presence of children and stable marital relationships); the Domestic economic resources sub-index (the economic resources for the family in terms of income and work opportunities without discrimination of women and mothers); the Contextual resources sub-index (childcare services and work-family balance policies); and the Social resources sub-index (the quality of familial internal and external relationships).

Inevitably, the articulation of sub-indices highlights different local dynamics. There are countries where, despite the high levels of economic and/or contextual resources for care tasks, the structural dimension in terms of children and marriage remains low (such as in Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and Germany).

The report includes also a detailed study on family law in a comparative perspective, as well as on intergenerational solidarity and 'social cohesion' across Europe.

This new Index promises to be an invaluable tool to the international pro-family and pro-life movement.