Dissertation Abstracts

Labour markets, family-relevant policies and reproductive behaviours: Quebec’s fertility regimes between 1960 and 2010

Author: Mathieu, Sophie , sophiemathieu@hotmail.com
Department: sociology

Supervisor: Wallace Clement
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Carleton University

Keywords: family policy , Quebec , fertility , gender equality
Areas of Research: Family Research , Women in Society , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


Using the gender equity theory to study fertility trends in Quebec between 1960 and 2010, this dissertation shows that fertility outcomes are more contingent upon policies that support a gender-egalitarian division of care work, than fertility policies aimed at increasing the number of births. Changes in reproductive trends are examined using an ‘institutional approach’ to fertility. Accordingly, fertility outcomes are theorised as resulting from the articulation between the economic context, the sequence of key transitions in family life and the extent to which social policy allows care work to be ‘demotherized’. The dissertation introduces the concept of the ‘demotherization’ of care work, to convey the extent to which mothers can download their care-giving responsibilities to the state, grand-parents and their partner. In the 1960s, fertility is shown to have decreased in Quebec, despite the fact that women were faced with new opportunities in public institutions. Following the Quiet Revolution, the federal and the provincial governments offered a limited set of family-relevant policies that supported ‘gendered familialism’, with low levels of defamilialization and demotherization. Declining fertility was the result of the lower importance of the family as a pillar institution and of women’s difficulty to combine earning and caring tasks. The introduction of Quebec’s first family policy in 1988 which contained a baby bonus, had a positive effect on fertility, though not because of this new measure, but because of a favorable economic context. Quebec’s provincial government continued to support the motherization of care work, while simultaneously offering allowances that favoured economic defamilialization. Finally, Quebec’s second family policy, introduced in 1997 (yet fully implemented in 2006), challenged the traditional gendered division of care-giving responsibilities, through the provision of universal and targeted measures that allowed care work to be demotherized. In Quebec’s fertility regime moved from ‘implicit familialism’ to a hybrid version of ‘institutional’ and ‘de-gendered’ arrangements of care work. In that context, women were able to maintain good activity rates, along with relatively high fertility.