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Policy Frames and Coalition Dynamics in the Recent Reforms of Swiss Family Policy

GPS, Vol. 6 No. 3, (2010)

Family policy development calls for explanations that go beyond the tradi-tional approaches of welfare state analysis. We draw on the concept of poli-cy frame to analyze the politics of family policy reform in Switzerland. More precisely, we consider that family policy development must be ex-plained by a focus on underlying policy frames (distant cause) that organize thought and behavior of policy actors who coalesce to produce majorities in decision-making opportunities (proximate cause) within a given institutional setting (stable over time). Empirically, we analyze recent change in the fields of parental leave, childcare and family allowances. Successful reform in Swiss family policy was driven by coalitions that form around measures of family policy that allow specific combinations of family policy frames. The two patterns of winning coalition that emerge suggest that Swiss family policy is driven by a range of reconfiguring alliances and ambiguous agree-ments. Switzerland is far from experiencing the emergence of a new, pro-gressive dominant coalition in favor of family policy modernization. Our analysis suggests that the plurality of frames that underlie family policy creates a structural potential for reform, but this potential must be mobilized each time anew.

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