Résumé : The general focus of this thesis is on how the family, work and the welfare system are intertwined. A major determinant is the way responsibilities are shared by the state, the market and civil society in different welfare state regimes. An introductory chapter will therefore be dedicated to the development of the social dimension in the process of European integration. A first chapter will then go deeper into the comparative analysis of welfare state regimes, to comment on the provision of welfare in societies with a different mix of state, market and societal welfare roles and to assess the adequacy of existing typologies as reflections of today’s changed socio-economic, political and gender reality. Although they stand strong on their own, these first two chapters also contribute to contextualising the research subject of the remainder of the thesis: the study and comparison of the differential situation of women and men and of mothers and non-mothers on the labour markets of the EU-15 countries as well as of the role of public policies with respect to the employment penalties faced by women, particularly in the presence of young children. In our analysis, employment penalties are understood in three ways: (i) the difference in full-time equivalent employment rates between mothers and non-mothers, (ii) the wage penalty associated with motherhood, and (iii) the wage gap between part-time and full-time workers, considering men and women separately. Besides from a gender point of view, employment outcomes and public policies are thus assessed comparatively for mothers and non-mothers. Because women choose to take part in paid employment, fertility rates will depend on their possibilities to combine employment and motherhood. As a result, motherhood-induced employment penalties and the role of public policies to tackle them should be given priority attention, not just by scholars, but also by politicians and policy-makers.