A social norm in Italy appears to be grandparents spending the day taking care of their pre-school grandchildren. Even grandfathers can be seen pushing infants around in carriages and entertaining them in public squares, something very rarely seen in the U.S. But social norms don’t just happen—they can be created and later altered by purely economic incentives. Italy has now increased its retirement age substantially, at the same time that the labor-force participation rate of women ages 25-54 has increased by over 20 percentage points.
When today’s middle-aged Italian women have grandchildren it is unlikely that they will retire from their long-time careers, and thus unlikely that they will be available to care for grandchildren full time. The social norm of grandparent care is unlikely to exist in Italy in 25 years.