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Welfare Reform on the Web (June 2006): Welfare state - overseas

EU social policy governance: advocating activism or servicing states?

K. Edquist

Journal of European Public Policy, vol.13, 2006, p.500-518

This article considers the implications of EU social policy governance for activism on behalf of domestic interest groups in Europe. It finds that while EU governance enhances state support for the services and innovations of grassroots and non-governmental organisations, it also directs their attention away from the interests of the groups they claim to represent towards the concerns of the member states. The EU’s governance instruments, particularly benchmarking, the open method of coordination, and mainstreaming, provide these organisations with funding and increase their social responsibility, but do little to empower them vis-à-vis state interests.

Forms of governance in European Union social policy: continuity and/or change?

G. Falkner

International Social Security Review, vol.59, Apr.-June 2006, p.77-103

Article considers the EU’s competences in the area of social policy and how they have developed over time. It then looks at how these powers have been used to introduce social policy regulations, financing measures under the European Social Fund, EC directives aimed at harmonising the laws of member states, and non-binding social policy acts. A quantitative comparison is then made between various binding and non-binding forms of social law, and between individual directives and the degree to which they include elements of voluntary compliance. It transpires that an impressive body of EU social law has developed and that non-binding forms of action have in no way replaced those that are binding.

Human dignity and welfare systems

C. K. Chan and G. Bowpit

Bristol: Policy Press, 2005

The book examines the concept of human dignity in the context of social welfare. It formulates a framework for evaluating the dignity of welfare recipients and uses this framework to explore four different welfare systems: UK, Sweden, China and Hong Kong. It concludes that workfare can be an acceptable and effective welfare approach only if personal needs have been taken into account, supported by individualised plans. In this way, a poor unemployed person can be provided with the resources and opportunities necessary to tackle employment barriers.

Industrial relations and welfare states: the different dynamics of retrenchment in Germany and the Netherlands

C. Trampusch

Journal of European Social Policy, vol.16, 2006, p.121-133

Current studies of welfare state retrenchment tend to define this as government decisions in favour of markets. It is often assumed that trade unions will oppose privatisation of public welfare, while employers will support parties aiming to strengthen market forces. Empirical evidence from the German and Dutch welfare states shows an expansion of collectively negotiated benefits and thus a strengthening of the self-regulatory role of the collective bargaining partners in welfare issues. Taking these developments into account, this article argues that, in societies with cooperative labour relations, retrenchment does not necessarily imply that governments decide in favour of markets as an alternative provider of welfare. In these societies, private alternatives to public benefits may not only be offered individually by the market but also be supplied through collective agreements reached by trade unions and employers. These agreements may offer organisational and financial resources for welfare and thus be able to support government retrenchment policies.

State institutions, political power and social policy choices: reconstructing the origins of Nordic models of social policy

Ka Lin and E. Carroll

European Journal of Political Research, vol.45, 2006, p.345-367

Article traces the development of the Nordic welfare state from its origins in the nineteenth century to the immediate post-war period (1940s-1960s) when a social democratic model was consolidated. It analyses the social and political conditions that prevented Nordic social welfare regimes from developing along the lines of British poor relief or German occupational insurance and instead enabled the emergence of the universal welfare state. Analysis is based on: policy development, the configuration of state institutions, the strength of liberal, conservative and leftist power blocs, and differences between Nordic countries in respect of these.

The variety of social capital in welfare state regimes: a comparative study of 21 countries

J. Kaariainen and H. Lehtonen

European Societies, vol.8, 2006, p.27-57

Research tested two competing hypotheses on the relationship between social capital and the development of the welfare state. The first one, the society-centred hypothesis, assumes that social capital emerges first and foremost in close communities such as families, local communities, or in civic engagement. This means that strong welfare states weaken rather than strengthen the conditions for the emergence of social capital. The competing institution-centred hypothesis assumes that social capital develops in societies with a strong political system and a well-functioning welfare state. Research shows that both hypotheses are partly true. The society-centred hypothesis is correct in the sense that networking based on family ties (bonding social capital) is stronger in Mediterranean and post-socialist welfare regimes than in other regimes. However the majority of the research results supports the institution-centred hypothesis. Firstly, voluntary civic engagement (bridging social capital) is most common in social-democratic and liberal welfare state regimes and least common in post-socialist and Mediterranean regimes. Secondly, generalised trust is strongest in social democratic Northern Europe, followed by liberal and conservative regimes. The least amount of trust can be found in Eastern and Southern Europe, where social security is weak.

Welfare regimes and attitudes towards redistribution: the regime hypothesis revisited

M. M. Jaeger

European Sociological Review, vol.22, 2006, p.157-170

This paper explores why comparative research has failed to demonstrate a link between type of welfare regime (liberal, conservative or social-democratic) and popular support for redistribution of wealth. It is argued that failure to demonstrate a link arises from shortcomings regarding: 1) the dependent variables analysed; 2) a reductionist empirical conceptualisation of what welfare regimes are; 3) a failure to formulate testable regime rather than country effects on welfare attitudes; and 4) inadequate methodologies. Paper proposes several ways to overcome these difficulties. Drawing on data from the first two waves of the European Social Survey, this analysis of attitudes towards redistribution across 13 Western European countries provides mixed support for the regime hypothesis..

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