Since the role of women in the democratic process is a recent phenomenon, the idea of welfare for women was more or less decided by men. The UN Human Development Report of 1998 unequivocally states that there is no country in the world in which women's quality of life is equal to that of men. The UN report has come to this unsavory conclusion by using a set of complex benchmarks that include longevity, health status, educational opportunities and political rights. The plethora of research literature that is churned out by the academia has established the strong correlation between the character of the welfare state and class (Esping Anderson 1990, Korpi 2000) as well as gender disparity (O'Conner et al 1999, Orloff 1993, Sainsbury 1994). The flow of welfare benefits is highly significant for women's chances of becoming and/or continuing poor (Casper et al 1994, Christopher 2000). The in-depth study of the way of organizing welfare by each nation reveals the interplay of subtle ingredients of culture, religion, philosophy and inherited attitudes that linger unabated in the ethos of a nation. The cross-national variations can be understood by probing the gendered content of some of the vital components of the welfare states like family, maternity, and childcare policies.
The Polish welfare state is conspicuous for their denial of family and maternity benefits. Thus the state compels women out of the labor force and perpetuates their dependence on their spouses for short as well as long term, welfare, while the Hungarian state, is more obliging to women seeking a sense of balance between paid work and family. The Romanian welfare system is different from the Polish
1 Ethos means the shared fundamental traits. The fundamental and distinctive character of a group, social context, or period, typically expressed in attitudes, habits, and beliefs do not change. Most East European countries when they said adieu to the defunct ideal of communism and came to their own, started asserting their welfare priorities based on their ethos which is somewhat intertwined in their psyche.
One, because it allows more freedom for women to pursue work outside the home and cannot expect much provision from state welfare. Consequently,
they have hardly any independence to stand on their own. This has resulted in increasing Rumanian women marrying very late and a significant number of them having children out side the wedlock. From the example of these three countries, it can be concluded that the cross-country variations in poverty can be explained by the nature of welfare provision of each country. As a first step for emancipation, it is imperative that access to welfare should not be gender based but qualification based, the only qualification being the citizenship. Women do superlatively well in welfare states where claims are made on the basis of general citizenship and do most awfully in states where claims are made on the basis of employment in paid