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

Elderly bias, new social risks and social spending change and timing in eight programmes across four worlds of welfare, 1980-2003

M. Tepe and P. Vanhuysse

Journal of European Social Policy, vol.20, 2010, p. 217-234

Affluent democracies have been coping with two large-scale sociodemographic trends since the 1970s: population ageing and the rise of the post-industrial economy. This research investigates how these trends, and their timing, have affected welfare spending in up to 21 OECD democracies with respect to eight separate programmes and two composite indicators of aggregate welfare expenditure bias towards the elderly and new social risks. The results show that, within countries, even dramatic socioeconomic trends such as population ageing and new social risks influence welfare spending relatively little. Contemporaneous levels of new social risks, in particular, conspicuously fail to affect spending on programmes that deal with them.

Fair-weather friends: why compacts fail non-government organisations

G. Edgar and F. Lockie

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 30, 2010, p. 354-367

In recent decades many governments have outsourced social service provision to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), with the result that many now receive the bulk of their income from government rather than from charitable donations. This article explores the effectiveness of compacts in enabling NGOs to remain independent of government and retain their advocacy role. The strong and well-resourced English Compact has been relatively successful in allowing NGOs to advocate without government constraints, but many organisations still fear that their funding will be cut if they criticise government. In contrast, Working Together for New South Wales received little government support and has largely fallen off their policy agenda. This highlights the flimsiness of compacts in ensuring NGO independence as they only have meaning if government is onside.

From universalism to selectivism: the ideational turn of the anti-poverty policies in Finland

S. Kuivalainen and M. Niemela

Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 20, 2010, p. 263-276

In Nordic countries, selective policy measures have had only a marginal role in providing social benefits and welfare services. The ultimate aim of the Nordic welfare state is to alleviate poverty, but targeted anti-poverty policies have not been employed to this end. This situation has changed in Finland, which has adopted targeted anti-poverty policies. Based on an analysis of documents produced by key actors, this article shows that the basic idea behind policy prescriptions for alleviating poverty in Finland has changed from universalism to selectivism. The results show that the Church, non-governmental organisations, and the European Union's Lisbon agenda as well as an active opposition politics had an important role in the turn from universalism to selectivism.

Institutions, interests and ideas: explaining social policy change in welfare states incorporating an indigenous population

L. Humpage

Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 20, 2010, p. 235-247

The last 30 years have seen significant changes in social policy regarding indigenous peoples living in advanced welfare states. However, such change has not been uniform even in liberal welfare states where the recognitive claims of indigenous peoples have been most widely endorsed by governments. This article proposes a framework for qualitatively analysing these divergences in indigenous social policy cross-nationally, using the example of indigenous capacity building initiatives from Australia and New Zealand to demonstrate its utility.

The 'paradox of the shrinking middle': the central dilemma of European social policy

P. Frericks, M. Harvey and R. Maier

Critical Social Policy, vol.30, 2010, p. 315-336

European welfare states have been financed primarily through social insurance contributions and taxes paid by workers. However, this source of funding is diminishing due to people spending more years in education and lifelong learning so that they start work later and retiring earlier, although the latter trend is now being reversed. As the paid employment phase of the life cycle shrinks, welfare states have insufficient resources to continue to provide social security benefits, pensions, health and social care, etc.

Social policies of the European Union

P. Pochet and C. Degryse

Global Social Policy, vol. 10, 2010, p. 248-257

This article begins by summarising provisions related to the EU social agenda contained in the new Treaty of European Union (the Lisbon Treaty) which came into force on 1st December 2009. It then goes on to discuss the role played by social issues in other European policies, with a special focus on economic policies and sustainable development within the Lisbon Strategy. A fourth section presents an overview of the current EU social agenda. The article concludes with a discussion of how the EU reacted to the global economic crisis of 2008/09.

Welfare state reforms and the political business cycle

A. Petring

CESifo DICE Report, vol.8, Summer 2010, p. 47-52

This paper presents an analysis of opportunistic behaviour by left and right wing governments in offering 'gifts' to voters in the shape of expansion of welfare benefits in election years. The author constructed a database indicating visible expansionary reforms in unemployment insurance and public pensions in 18 OECD countries from 1980 to 2002. Additional data on election dates, the ideological position of governments, and the socio-economic situation in the countries at the time were added. The findings provide only weak evidence of opportunistic government behaviour, which is observable mainly in pension policy. The danger of repelling the electorate by loosening their ideological profile limits the opportunities available to parties for offering electoral gifts. The danger of being blamed by opposing parties also narrows the scope for opportunistic behaviour.

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