In his Opening Address to the Conference, David Piachaud examines the invisible societal values that enable societies to function, and considers them in the more general context of the relationship between economic policy and social policy. Peter Taylor-Gooby's paper describes how traditional approaches to knowledge (the 'grand narratives') are breaking up in response to increasing uncertainty. This theme is echoed in the paper by Jan Carter which, in examining the history of social inequality in Australia, also attempts to isolate the rather elusive qualities of egalitarianism we have heard so much about in this country. In his paper, Neil Gilbert portrays the family today not as some descendent of the TV family of the fifties, but instead one faced with an almost bewildering set of considerations before mum and/or dad get out of the door to work or to the child care centre. The gender divisions of labour are further highlighted in Bob Gregory's paper. Again, we have to rethink some fundamentals: why has the United States escaped some of Australia's labour force problems, and what would be the consequences of adopting some of their policies?