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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2010): Welfare state - overseas

Changes in public opinion and the American welfare state

G.M. Shaw

Political Science Quarterly, vol. 124, 2009, p. 627-653

The debate over the welfare state in the USA has unfolded in the context of a long-running tension between a deep-seated belief that charity corrupts its recipients and a conviction that there is a collective responsibility to care for the vulnerable. Many, if not most, Americans invest in both sides of the debate. As the United States confronts steeply rising healthcare costs, the retirement of the baby boomers, and growing economic inequality, this ambivalence offers both a foundation for the expansion of redistributive policies and a potential obstacle to needed reforms. This essay traces some recent developments in public opinion about redistribution, and attempts to elaborate both the political challenges and opportunities for bringing the American welfare state more into line with the needs of the population.

Investing, facilitating, or individualizing the reconciliation of work and family life: three paradigms and ambivalent policies

T. Knijn and A. Smit

Social Politics, vol. 16, 2009, p. 484-518

For decades, reconciling work and family life has been the focus of scholars who study family life, the labour market and social policies from a gender perspective. In recent years, concerns about other social and economic issues, including declining fertility rates, the need to improve social protection for the unemployed, and the importance of human capital in internationally competitive economies, have inspired new frameworks for thinking about work and family issues. This article evaluates three new paradigms currently dominating the intellectual discourse on reconciliation in the European Union (EU): the social investment state, the transitional labour market model and the individual life-course perspective. Some traces of these paradigms are found in the Lisbon agreement, its amendments, and in the national action plans regularly submitted by member states. It is concluded that the gender equality agenda has been subordinated to the focus on creating competitive knowledge-based economies in the EU. Social investment is the most prominent of the three paradigms in the new agenda, but because it is mixed up with elements from the other paradigms, current policies lack coherence.

Lost in translation: the social investment perspective and gender equality

J. Jenson

Social Politics, vol.16, 2009, p.446-483

The social investment perspective is replacing standard neoliberalism in both Latin America and Europe. This perspective represents an approach to social citizenship different from the social protection logic of the three decades after 1945 and the safety-net stance of the neoliberals. In a social investment welfare system the state assumes the role of investor rather than spender; access to citizenship rights shifts to incorporate the excluded and marginalised; and governance practices alter to emphasise decentralisation to the local and the community levels. The main idea of the social investment perspective is to assure the future by investing in children and ending the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. Within this set of policies, attention to the needs of adult women is sidelined in favour of those of children, including girls.

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