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

Agents of the welfare state: how caseworkers respond to need in the United States, Germany, and Sweden


Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

Providing state assistance to the poor raises fundamental questions about the minimal level of public support individuals should receive and about the obligations for the recipients to help themselves. This book analyses how caseworkers make needs assessment decisions and promote self-sufficiency in welfare and welfare-to-work agencies in the United States, Germany, and Sweden. It argues that there are significant cross-national differences in the policy orientations and administrative practices of social assistance programmes. The bureaucratic organization of casework that predominates in the US significantly hinders the ability of frontline staff to tailor support to individual need and assist their clients to become self-sufficient. In Sweden and Germany, by contrast, caseworkers have greater authority and more choices. The book shows how responsiveness in European welfare programs is institutionalized through nationally distinct legal foundations, professional traditions, and resource networks, while revealing how resource scarcities threaten to erode these capabilities.

Is the welfare state justified?

D. Shapiro

Cambridge: CUP, 2007

The book examines welfare states in affluent democracies and their market alternatives and argues that the dominant positions in contemporary political philosophy egalitarianism, positive-rights theory, communitarianism, and many other forms of liberalism should converge in a rejection of central welfare-state institutions. It examines how major welfare institutions, such as government financed and administered retirement pensions, national health insurance, and programmes for the needy, actually work. Comparing them to compulsory private insurance and private charities, the book argues that the dominant perspectives in political philosophy mistakenly think that their principles support the welfare state. Instead, egalitarians and other liberals have misunderstood the implications of their own principles, which support more market-based or libertarian institutional conclusions than they may realize.

New governance in European social policy: the open method of coordination

M. Buchs

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

The European Union is widely regarded as premised on an imbalance between market-making and market-correcting provisions, potentially weakening national welfare systems and the political legitimacy of the European project. However, a stronger role for the EU in social policy faces considerable difficulties. The Open Method of Coordination (OMC) represents a new governance approach to European social policy and was adopted in the late 1990s. It seeks to provide a 'middle-way' solution to the dilemma of European social policy in which the EU adopts a stronger role in coordinating member states' social policies while member states formally retain their authority in social policy. The book explores the effectiveness and legitimacy of the OMC. It analyses the tensions within the OMC's goals and instruments, develops an explanation of its functioning and applies a multifaceted framework for its evaluation.

The new welfare state settlement in Europe

P. Taylor-Gooby

European Societies, vol. 10, 2008, p.3-24

A new welfare state settlement may be emerging across much of Europe and appears to be most clearly articulated at the EU level. The key feature of the new settlement is a strong emphasis on welfare as social investment rather than as a burden on productive sectors of the economy. The aim is to use welfare state spending to enhance the quality, availability and adaptability of the workforce combined with labour market deregulation to improve flexibility and use of social benefits to support employment mobility. However, in practice, most European states have been more successful with labour market deregulation and activation policies (restrictions on passive benefits receipt and targeted help for high risk groups) than with investment in improving the knowledge base and enhancing mobility.

Persistent poverty: Portugal and the Southern European welfare regime

L.V. Ferreira

European Societies, vol. 10, 2008, p. 49-71

The Southern European model of the welfare state, which includes Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, has not been particularly successful in tackling persistent poverty. In Southern European countries, levels of social expenditure are relatively lower; there are generous benefits associated with work positions and frail minimum protection safety nets; social benefits other than pensions are relatively scarce, not well targeted, and of little use in reducing poverty; and the social benefits management system is open to discretion that translates into a clientelist model. Consequently, levels of poverty and inequality remain high. The failure of the Southern European welfare state to tackle poverty may be explained by cultural and institutional factors such as less state accountability in a context where families have a prominent role in welfare provision and high levels of social and political tolerance of poverty and inequality.

Singapore's policy responses to ageing, inequality and poverty: an assessment

M.G. Asher and A. Nandy

International Social Security Review, vol. 61, Jan.-Mar. 2008, p. 41-60

This article considers the adequacy of Singapore's response to the challenges of globalisation, population ageing, inequality and poverty. It has relied on a single-tier mandatory saving scheme, the Central Provident Fund, to finance housing, retirement pensions, and, to some extent, healthcare. Stringent means-testing, a case-by-case approach, and low levels of benefits have characterised various social assistance schemes. These social policies have required individuals and their families to bear disproportionate risks in financing retirement, healthcare, and short-term income support, with grossly inadequate social risk pooling.

Social justice, legitimacy and the welfare state

S. Mau and B. Veghte (editors)

Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007

This volume addresses issues of justice and legitimacy in the context of welfare state transformation. It demonstrates that the Western welfare state is not at risk of losing support or encountering fundamental opposition, yet does face serious challenges such as growing social and ethnic diversity, new social risks, fiscal constraints and contested notions of justice. The book is focused on four main aspects: attitude formation in cross-national perspective; the just distribution of burdens and benefits; political factors mediating the effects of social attitudes on public policy; and, challenges to the welfare state stemming from immigration and ethnic diversity. The volume contributes to the growing body of literature which takes up the issue of the public standing of the welfare state from a comparative perspective.

Social policy and international interventions in South East Europe

B. Deacon and P. Stubbs (editors)

Cheltenham: Elgar, 2007

The book investigates the role of international actors in the making of social policy in South East Europe. Introductory chapters on transnationalism and Europeanisation are followed by a series of nine linked case studies depicting research undertaken within the region. The book charts the variable influence that international actors such as formal organisations, non-governmental organisations, consulting companies and individual transnational policy entrepreneurs, have on key policy issues, including pensions, social protection, labour markets, and health. It concludes that welfare settlements are a complex product of historical and institutional legacies, the neo-liberal interventions of the World Bank, the emerging impact of the EU, and the crowded international arena resulting from war.

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