This paper examines how a social investment approach can be applied in a comparative analysis of childcare arrangements. We compared changes in Sweden, France, Germany, the UK, Japan and Korea during the 2000s, focusing on four dimensions of social investment: activation, gender equality, quality of care, and the degree of state’s intervention in the family. We considered leave systems and the number of children enrolled in formal care and education facilities as indicators for labour market activation. For gender equality, women’s position in employment is considered with respect to labour market participation rates, proportion of permanent employment, and wage-sex ratio. Quality of care concerns child-to-staff ratio and care provided with government quality control. The state’s intervention was measured as social spending on families as proportions of GDP and total social spending. Our analysis provides empirical evidence that Sweden and France are pioneers in this arena and that the UK, Germany, Korea, and Japan are path-shifters in their care paradigms, albeit to varying degrees. Is the social investment approach an adequate paradigm for care? In a normative sense, this approach has potential. However, the following issues remain unaddressed: gender equality should be achieved through an expansion in good-quality jobs, fathers should be encouraged to take on childcare duties, and families should have universal access to good-quality childcare services controlled by the government.