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

Agency-based support: a 'last resort' strategy for low-income families?

S. Offer

Social Science Quarterly, vol.91, 2010, p. 284-300

Recent research indicates that a growing number of low-income families in the US are becoming socially isolated and have no-one to help them out in times of need. This study explored whether agency-based support received from charities and private social service organisations substitutes for support which family and friends cannot provide. Findings suggest that going to charities and private social service agencies for material support provides an alternative source of assistance for low-income women when the help they can obtain from their social networks is limited. Policy implications in the light of welfare reform are discussed.

Between the social and the spatial: exploring the multiple dimensions of poverty and social exclusion

K.De Boyser and others (editors)

Farnham: Ashgate, 2009

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the gradual widening of scientific and policy debates on poverty from a narrow focus on income poverty to a more inclusive concept of social exclusion, has made poverty research both more interesting and more complicated. This transition to a more multidimensional conceptualization of poverty forms the background and starting point of this book. Researchers studying the 'social' and 'spatial' dimensions of poverty have only started to challenge and explore the boundaries of each other's research perspectives and instruments. This book brings together these different bodies of literature on the intersection of spatial and social exclusion for the first time, by providing a state-of-the art review written by internationally-recognized experts who critically reflect on the theoretical status of their research on social exclusion, and on the implications this has for future research and policy-making agendas.

Constitutions and public support for welfare policies

T. Iida and T. Matsubayashi

Social Science Quarterly, vol.91, 2010, p. 42-62

Citizens in some countries are much more supportive of generous state welfare provision than others. This research explores how constitutional design affects public support for welfare policies. It is argued that the political principles reflected in national constitutions shape public views on welfare. It is suggested that the constitution's statements regarding citizens' rights to receive welfare services constrain elite discourse and that elite discourse shapes mass opinion. An empirical analysis of survey data from 15 consolidated democracies shows that citizens residing in countries with a more liberal constitution show more favourable and less ambivalent attitudes toward welfare provision.

The division of labour among European couples: the effects of life course and welfare policy on value-practice configurations

F. Buhlmann, G. Elcheroth and M. Tettamanti

European Sociological Review, vol.26, 2010, p. 49-66

Even though egalitarian gender values are increasingly spreading among younger Europeans, the division of labour within couples does not always comply with this trend. This article proposes that life course stage and welfare policies can either support or hinder couples in putting their values into practice in the form of specific divisions of work. Multi-level regression analyses of data from the 2004 European Social Survey show that, while most European couples manage coherent egalitarian configurations of values and practices in their pre-parental phase, they shift to a situation of tension between egalitarian values and gendered practices following the birth of their first children. The magnitude of this shift is strongly moderated by welfare policies. In liberal regimes, the tension between values and practices is transformed into an enduring accommodation to inequality, whereas in social-democratic regimes, change to unequal practices is rarer and reversible.

Economic crisis, climate change and the future of welfare states

I. Gough

21st Century Society, vol. 5, 2010, p. 51-64

This article discusses the future of Western welfare states in the face of two challenges: the economic crisis of 2008/09 and the pressures of climate change. It uses a punctuated equilibrium framework of institutional change to argue for path dependency in welfare reform alongside crisis-driven switching points. It goes on to argue that the financial crisis of 2008 grew out of the preceding era of financialised capitalism, and that it will generate a long term fiscal crisis, particularly in Britain. It is then argued that climate change, and the necessary mitigation measures taken to deal with it, will impose severe demands on traditional social policies. Climate change threatens further growth in rich countries which undermines the resources available for welfare systems.

How does decentralisation affect the welfare state? Territorial politics and the welfare state in the UK and the US

S.L. Greer

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 39, 2010, p. 181-201

There is a large debate in comparative politics about whether territorial decentralisation is good or bad for the generosity of welfare states. The debate is between cross-national studies that find that decentralised states have lower levels of welfare provision than centralised ones, and scholars focusing on the achievements of regional governments in developing more generous systems in their territory. This article resolves the contradiction by arguing that decentralisation, as a variable, is too broad. Instead it focuses on specific institutions - veto players in the central state, intergovernmental relations and intergovernmental finance - to explain the relationship between territorial decentralisation and the welfare state, using recent changes in the USA and the UK as examples.

Public perceptions of the economic, moral, social and migration consequences of the welfare state: an empirical analysis of welfare state legitimacy

W. van Oorschot

Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 20, 2010, p. 19-31

The European welfare state is often criticised for being a fiscal burden, increasing labour costs, sapping people's will to work, and attracting low-skilled migrants from poor countries. However, little research has been carried out into what the public believes to be the social, economic, moral and migration consequences of the welfare state. Data from a 2006 Dutch survey show that most Dutch people believe that the positive social consequences of the welfare state outweigh its negative economic and moral consequences. Consequence perceptions are consistently influenced by people's political stance, perceptions of the deservingness of welfare target groups and attitudes towards the role of government. Different perceptions are apparently not influenced by whether or not individuals are likely to benefit personally from state provision.

The welfare state and trade unions in Switzerland: an historical reconstruction of the shift from a liberal to a post-liberal welfare regime

C. Trampusch

Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 20, 2010, p. 58-73

The Swiss welfare state and trade unions' social policy activities developed in two phases. Up to the 1970s, public welfare schemes were under-developed and the decentralised and fragmented character of the political system delayed centralised public intervention in the domain of social policy. Trades unions at that time were supporters of private and union-run welfare schemes and collective agreements. From the 1970s, Switzerland abandoned the liberal model and shifted towards a continental European welfare regime, expanding public provision. Trade unions also left the liberal path and from the 1990s have strongly supported public provision.

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