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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2008): Welfare state - overseas

Decommodification and activation in social democratic policy: resolving the paradox

J. Huo, M. Nelson and J.D. Stephens

Journal of European Social Policy, vol.18, 2008, p.5-20

In his Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism Esping-Andersen argues that a central characteristic of the social democratic welfare state is the decommodification of labour, in that it allows people to exit paid work with little or no loss of income. In the same book he also argues that the social democratic welfare state is paradoxically also biased in favour of maximising labour supply and promoting full employment. The authors resolve this paradox by demonstrating that social democratic parties are supportive of decommodifying social policies insofar as these policies do not reduce aggregate levels of employment. Social democratic interventions in labour markets - such as active labour market policies and high short term unemployment benefits - actually raise employment levels. State interventions which lower employment - such a high long term unemployment benefits, high social security and payroll taxes and strong employment protection laws - are associated with Christian democracy and not social democracy.

Equality machineries matter: the impact of women's political pressure on European social care policies

I. Bleijenbergh and C. Roggeband

Social Politics, vol.14, 2007, p. 437-459

In the 1990s many West European states introduced policies such as public childcare provision, parental leave and part-time work protection to encourage married women to enter paid work. Using a qualitative comparative analysis design, this article tests the impact of different forms of feminist pressure (women's representation in national parliaments, the women's movement and gender equality machinery) and EU legislation on the development of these policies. The analysis showed that women's political pressure, especially through national equality machinery, is a prerequisite for the emergence and extension of family friendly policies.

Family policy, employment and gender-role attitudes: a comparative analysis of Russia and Sweden

A. Motiejunaite and Z. Kravchenko

Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 18, 2008, p. 38-49

This article analyses the correspondence between the patterns of gender relations promoted by family policy arrangements, individuals' attitudes towards combining parenting and paid work, and their actual family practices. The analysis focuses on Russia and Sweden, the first countries in the modern world to see a break with patriarchal rule. Political and economic development in both countries was underpinned by the idea of gender equality in relation to the provision of work opportunities and social welfare. It was also accompanied by the use of public measures aimed at ensuring opportunities for reconciling work and parenting responsibilities. However, neither of the systems recognises the equal value of care and waged work. Both countries base the social security provision for the carer on his/her position as a worker, which limits the individual's opportunity to choose whether or not to care. The findings also suggest that family policy is instrumental in facilitating female employment, but does not bring accompanying changes in gender role attitudes.

The impact of social policy on fertility: evidence from Switzerland

G. Bonoli

Journal of European Social Policy, vol.18, 2008, p. 64-77

This article studies the determinants of differences in fertility rates in 26 Swiss cantons. Switzerland is a federal state, and the cantons have a large degree of autonomy in family policy. The analysis basically confirms the findings of previous studies, highlighting the importance of childcare provision and level of family benefits as determinants of fertility rates.

Patterns of paid and unpaid work in Western Europe: gender, commodification, preferences and implications for policy

J. Lewis, M. Campbell and C. Huerta

Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 18, 2008, p. 21-37

Since the late 1990s, a prime aim of EU policy has been to get more women into employment, partly through enhanced formal provision of childcare services. This study uses data from the European Social Survey 2004/05 to explore how parents reconcile employment and childcare, whether a policy focus on better formal childcare provision is likely to fit with families' preferences in member states, and the extent of likely support for policies beyond increasing formal childcare provision and enforcing the maximum 48-hour working week. There is very little evidence of the emergence of a dual full-time worker model family outside the Nordic countries, although the balance between the hours that men and women spend in paid work is becoming less unequal. Kin, especially grandparents, play an important role in childcare provision in all but three countries, and, for the most part, mothers report that they are content with the amount of formal childcare available.

Poverty, welfare problems and social exclusion

B. Halleröd and D. Larsson

International Journal of Social Welfare, vol. 17, 2008, p. 15-25

This article studies the consequences of poverty, focussing mainly on how poverty is related to a range of other welfare problems such as unemployment, poor health, psychological distress, victimisation, etc. Data from Statistics Sweden's Annual Survey of Living Conditions allowed the research to use both an income-based measure of poverty defining those with an income below 60% of the median income as poor, and a deprivation-based measure defining those who most often have to forgo the consumption of goods and services as poor. In addition to these two poverty measures, the research also identified 17 indicators of welfare problems. The analysis showed that poverty measured as deprivation was significantly related to each of the 17 welfare problems. However, the income poverty measure was related to only 11 of the welfare problems, and those relationships were generally weak. Thus knowing that someone has an income below 60% of the median income does not tell us that he/she actually suffers from welfare problems and we cannot claim that fighting income poverty will contribute significantly to the elimination of other social evils.

Social exclusion in Europe: some conceptual issues

M. O'Brien and S. Penna

International Journal of Social Welfare, vol. 17, 2008, p. 84-92

Across the last two decades, European social policies have increasingly been defined as combating 'social exclusion'. This analysis seeks to demonstrate that the European social integration agenda is fundamentally flawed. The adoption of neo-functionalist systems approaches to the task of understanding and achieving social development in Europe, combined with the marginalisation of questions around everyday oppressions and resistances, leads to a limited, and ultimately untenable, analysis of the opportunities and constraints facing excluded groups. If a neofunctionalist systems model continues to supply the core ideology for European social policy, the authors suggest that the sense of the identity of Europe and the nature of the institutions embedded within that model will travel further and further away from the mundane reality of social exclusion.

Solidarity towards immigrants in European welfare states

W. van Oorschot

International Journal of Social Welfare, vol. 17, 2008, p. 3-14

American scholars argue that cultural diversity in the US has inhibited the development of a comprehensive welfare state because heavy reliance on state benefits is associated with subordinate minorities such as Black and Hispanic people. They also posit that a strong anti-welfare sentiment could arise in Europe if social assistance users are likely to be mostly immigrants with whom native Europeans feel little solidarity. This article uses data from the European Social Values Survey 1999/2000 to explore whether immigrants are regarded as the new undeserving poor. Results show that the solidarity that Europeans feel towards non-EU immigrants is low compared with their sympathy for other vulnerable groups such older and disabled people. However cultural diversity has not so far adversely affected welfare spending and the European Social Model has survived intact.

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