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

Housing policy as a lever for change? The politics of welfare, assets and tenure

W.P.C. van Gent

Housing Studies, vol. 25, 2010, p. 735-753

It is argued that the promotion of owner-occupancy in housing is related to the politics of welfare state reform, because it allows governments to pursue policies that downsize welfare services such as social care and pensions. Housing then serves as a tool or lever for governments to institute welfare state retrenchment. This argument relies heavily on evidence from Britain. This paper explores whether the same trends are visible in the Netherlands and Spain. The evidence suggests that in these states also housing policies play an important part in the drive towards and maintenance of market solutions.

The Oxford handbook of the welfare state

F. G. Castles and others (editors)

Oxford: OUP, 2010

This is a comprehensive account of everything one needs to know about the modern welfare state. The book is divided into eight sections. It opens with three chapters that evaluate the philosophical case for (and against) the welfare state. Surveys of the welfare state's history and of the approaches taken to its study are followed by four extended sections, which offer a comprehensive and in-depth survey of our current state of knowledge across the whole range of issues that the welfare state embraces. The first of these sections looks at inputs and actors (including the roles of parties, unions, and employers), the impact of gender and religion, patterns of migration and a changing public opinion, the role of international organisations and the impact of globalisation. The next two sections cover policy inputs (in areas such as pensions, health care, disability, care of the elderly, unemployment, and labour market activation) and their outcomes (in terms of inequality and poverty, macroeconomic performance, and retrenchment). The seventh section consists of seven chapters which survey welfare state experience around the globe (and not just within the OECD). Two final chapters consider questions about the global future of the welfare state.

Transformations of the welfare state: small states, big lessons

H. Obinger and others

Oxford: OUP, 2010

The book focuses on several small, advanced OECD economies in order to assess whether (and how) the welfare state will be able to compete under conditions of an increasingly integrated world economy. Small states can be seen as an 'early warning system' for general trends, because of their dependence on world markets and vulnerability to competitive pressures. The book's theoretical part integrates the literature on the political economy of small states with more recent research on the impact of globalization on social policy to generate a set of ideal-typical policy scenarios. The main body of the book tests these scenarios against the experience of four countries: Austria, Denmark, New Zealand, and Switzerland. The comparative, in-depth analysis of reform trajectories since the 1970s in four key policy areas; pensions, labour market policy, health care, and family policy provides substantial evidence of a new convergence in welfare state patterns. One of the big lessons to be learned from this study is that the transformation does not match the doomsday scenario predicted by neo-classical economists in the 1990s. There is no evidence of a 'race to the bottom' of social expenditure and standards of social protection, nor of a convergence towards a 'liberal' social policy model. Looking to the possible future of the welfare state in an era newly marked by profound uncertainty, it sounds an optimistic note for states of any size.

Welfare reform in rural places: comparative perspectives

P. Milbourne (editor)

Bingley: Emerald, 2010

Research on welfare has tended to focus on the national scale with relatively little attention given to the differential impacts of welfare restructuring in rural places and the difficulties faced by disadvantaged groups with limited provision of welfare services in many rural areas. The book brings together recent research from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand on the rural impacts of national welfare reform. As well as being international in its outlook, it provides an inter-disciplinary focus on rural welfare by including contributors from sociology, human geography, social policy and social anthropology. The definition of welfare used within the book is broad, encompassing overarching welfare and workfare agendas, as well as more specific welfare policy areas such as anti-poverty, health, housing, social security, social work and education.

What is social policy?: understanding the welfare state

D. Béland

Cambridge: Polity, 2010

From housing, pensions and family benefits, to health care, unemployment insurance and social assistance, the welfare state is a key aspect of our lives. But social programmes are contested political realities that we cannot hope to understand without locating them within the 'big picture.' This book provides a concise political and sociological introduction to social policy, helping readers to grasp the nature of social programs and the political struggles surrounding them. It takes a broad comparative and historical viewpoint on the United States, using an international perspective to contextualize American social policy within the developed world. Provocative and engaging, it offers insight into a wide range of social policy issues such as: welfare regimes, welfare state development, the politics of retrenchment and restructuring; the relationship between social programs and various forms of inequality; changing family and economic relations; the role of private social benefits; the potential impact of globalization; and debates about the future of the welfare state.

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