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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2011): Welfare state - overseas

Giving money to strangers: European welfare states and social trust

C. Jensen and G.T. Svendsen

International Journal of Social Welfare, vol. 20, 2011, p. 3-9

The modern welfare state facilitates income transfers between strangers, from the better-off to the less well off. In universal welfare states, such as those found in Scandinavia, high levels of generalised social trust underpin the acceptance of high taxation and extensive welfare benefits. However, the Conservative welfare states of Continental Europe also offer extensive benefits, but with much lower levels of generalised social trust than those found in Scandinavia. This article explains the anomaly by pointing out that Conservative welfare states are characterised by institutions and programmes that support the traditional family structure, financed by work-based social insurance plans. Citizens of conservative welfare states are willing to accept high levels of taxation because the proceeds are spent on programmes designed to benefit their families. Conservative welfare states are built on high levels of particularised trust, i.e. trust regarding the family rather than the generalised other.

Moving up the ladder or stuck on the bottom rung? Homeowners as a solution to poverty in urban South Africa

C. Lemanski

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol.35, 2011, p. 57-77

In the global South, policies providing property titles to low-income households are increasingly implemented as a solution to poverty. Integrating poor households into the capitalist economy through state-subsidised home ownership is intended to provide poor people with an asset that can be used in a productive manner. In this article the South African 'housing subsidy system' is assessed using quantitative and qualitative data from research in a state-subsidised housing settlement in Cape Town. The findings show that, while state-subsidised property ownership provides long term shelter and tenure security to low-income households, houses have mixed value as a financial asset. Although state-subsidised houses in South Africa are a tradable asset, transaction values are too low for low-income vendors to reach the next rung on the property ladder, the township market. Furthermore, low-income home owners are reluctant to use their house as security for credit, and thus property ownership is not providing the financial returns that titling theories assume.

Welfare and social support

P. Frericks (editor)

European Societies, vol.12, 2010, p. 653-742

The articles in this themed section explore the changing structure of welfare and social support. The first paper documents how economic disruption in Eastern Europe following the fall of communism has been matched by a decline in social integration and cohesion and subjective life satisfaction. Trust in government is low and people experience good social support from families at the local level, but not from the major social institutions. The second article looks at financial and social care obligations within families and their relation to state provision. In Scandinavia, Belgium and France the growth in state provision has been associated with a 'de-familialisation', while in Greece, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, low levels of state provision have been associated with strong familialisation. The next article on social networks in Slovenia shows that informal social support since the transition from communism has resulted in greater reliance on immediate kin rather than wider social networks. The final paper uses a case study of pensions in Germany to explore trade-offs between economic efficiency and social solidarity and finds neo-liberal and neo-statist approaches combined.

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