• family policy;
  • welfare;
  • Scandinavia;
  • Confucian Asia;
  • social order;
  • culture

This article compares family policies in two Scandinavian and three Confucian Asian countries. Through a general survey on schemes of child allowance and parental leave, it seeks explaining factors for cross-regime diversity of the welfare systems. In focus are the agents affecting the family policy-making process, including social classes, the state, women and families. In order to assess the roles these agents have played, this study retraces the preconditions of family policy development and its associated socio-cultural backgrounds. Results from such an examination will illustrate how the social order determines the patterns of family policy, which offers a new path to travel to these different cultural ‘worlds’. Taking the Confucian Asian states into its frame of reference, the study will take a fresh look at Scandinavian welfare systems, which still have some general implications for the study of the dynamics, model and outcome of family policy in an international context.