You quoted the article as suggesting that "to protect children, the state should act to try to make family life more manageable, through better school hours, flexible hours at work, means-tested childcare, and maternity and paternity leave". That sounds like perfectly common sense political wishlist items to me. What gives you the creeps about these 'action points', the compulsoriness of parenting classes aside? (And on that point, again, I'm not much for compulsory anything, but if we give sex ed in the schools why not parenting ed..)
The rest of the list doesn't give me the creeps, but I am suspicious of his general implication, unsubstantiated by the rest of the article, that there's an improvement here and people are just too dumb to make it by themselves. Longer school hours (which I think is what Mr. Layard means by "better"), may well keep the children of bad parents out of depression, but may just as well drive the children of good parents into
it. I am speeking from personal experience here. My general mindset has made me an outsider in every group I was ever compelled to be part of, and I was extremely unhappy in school until about the 12th grade (out of the 13 we have in Germany). With what Mr. Layard considers "better" school hours, I wouldn't have had the afternoons to myself, there's a good chance my frustration and depression would have risen to an extent I wouldn't have made it to 12th grade. Tradeoffs like these don't play much of a role in his arguments.
Flexible hours sound great in theory, and one of the reasons I have chosen my current job is because the hours are almost completely flexible. ("Almost" means I can't work any time between 10:30 pm and 5:30 am, a constraint I can live with.) But in practice, for A to work efficiently, it is often necessary that B be available while A is at work. B, in turn, depends on C being there; C depends on D, and so on ad nauseam
. The sum of all these dependencies don't take all the flexibility out of my schedule, but a large part of it. At least in Germany, I doubt there is much improvement to be had through government action on behalf of more flexible hours. The case may be different in the Netherlands, the UK, or America.
Parental leave -- no problem from my point of view.
Parenting ed -- no particular problem with the claim that this is a useful subject to teach. Much problem with the compulsory part. If my children have to learn how to live their lives, I don't want them to learn it from so corrupt a source as a government monopoly curriculum.