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The responsiveness of social policies in Europe

The responsiveness of social policies in Europe: The Netherlands in comparative perspective

Menno Fenger
Martijn van der Steen
Lieske van der Torre
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  • Book Info
    The responsiveness of social policies in Europe
    Book Description:

    Modern welfare states are confronted with a wide variety of social and economic developments, including individualization, secularization, globalization and changing preferences and ideologies of citizens. Using in-depth analysis gathered over 15 years, this book closely analyzes the consequences of these significant changes for social policies, offering theoretical and practical insights about their responsiveness. It includes a comparative analysis of recent developments in social assistance, sheltered work and labour market policies in the Netherlands, showing how policy makers are continually trying to incorporate societal transformations into social policies while being obstructed by the path-dependent development of welfare state institutions. The insights from the case studies are related to developments in other European countries in the areas of social assistance, sheltered work and labour market policies, and show how policy makers and politicians deal with multiple challenges, interests and perspectives on social policies. This book is essential reading for academics and students interested in the institutional development of social policies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-0577-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of figures and tables
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The 2007–2012 global economic crisis, even referred to by some as ‘the Great Recession’ (see Grusky et al, 2011), formed an exciting challenge for European welfare states. Firmly rooted in institutions that have evolved since the start of the 20th century and been transformed by almost three decades of austerity, the European welfare states will undoubtedly again undergo significant changes in response to the challenges of this recession (see also Hemerijck, 2009). But even before the crisis, welfare states in many European countries were already under pressure. Not only concerns about financial sustainability, but many other factors also have...

  3. TWO Responsive policies in contested welfare states?
    (pp. 9-30)

    In the previous chapter we defined responsiveness as the degree of congruence between policy developments, socioeconomic developments and changes in values of citizens and relevant actors. An important element in this definition involves the level to which the institutions of the welfare state correspond with citizens’ opinions about the role and position of welfare states in modern economies. However, these opinions differ significantly over time and between nationalities. Figure 2.1 illustrates the dynamics of opinions on the welfare, based on an analysis of different opinions on social security. Although the data in this figure are outdated, it serves as a...

  4. THREE A framework for analysing policy responsiveness
    (pp. 31-64)

    In the previous chapter we showed how citizens’ support for the welfare state differs from individual to individual and fluctuates over time. Based on that chapter, the idea of‘fit’ between the design of social policies and citizens’ opinions seems almost an illusion: it has to take into account the sometimes conflicting aspects of legitimacy as well as the great variance in citizens’ beliefs. Still, we do not abandon our exploration into the backgrounds of responsive social policies.

    Initially, it seems to be self-evident in a representative, democratic system that policy provides an answer to social problems and can count on...

  5. FOUR The responsiveness of social assistance policies
    (pp. 65-94)

    As has become clear from the previous chapters, this book sets out to explore when, how and why social policies respond to external challenges. This chapter specifically focuses on the domain of social assistance. Various authors have argued that the variety of policy measures that are included under the label of‘social assistance’ prevents a precise definition of what social assistance is (see Gough et al, 1997; Ditch, 1999; Saraceno, 2002). Building upon Gough et al (1997: 18), in this book we define social assistance as the means-tested or income related benefits to which eligibility is dependent on an assessment of...

  6. FIVE The responsiveness of labour migration policies
    (pp. 95-134)

    The ever growing global mobility of labour, partly caused by the enlargement of the European Union, presents important challenges for national labour markets. Moreover, the role of labour migrants is heavily debated in the media and politics in many European countries. This chapter analyses to what extent and how European countries in general and the Netherlands more specifically have adapted their labour migration policies to these challenges. This case illustrates the impact of what can be called the import of normative discussions from other domains on responsiveness. Strictly interpreted, the Labour Migration Act (December 21, 1994) regulates supply in the...

  7. SIX The responsiveness of sheltered work policies
    (pp. 135-172)

    This chapter discusses the policy domain of employment facilities for disabled people, and more specifically sheltered work. Disabled people are often classified as a ‘vulnerable group’ in society due to their dependence on the state for their resources (ILO, 2009). In times of crisis this vulnerability becomes more pronounced. Due to the crisis the number of employed disabled workers reduces, public budgets for employment programmes for disabled people become tighter, and the demand for products and services of enterprises employing disabled people can become less (ILO, 2009). The impact of the crisis on disabled people leads to a demand for...

  8. SEVEN Conclusions: the responsiveness of social policies in three domains
    (pp. 173-210)

    In the opening sentences of this book we articulated the difficult challenge to welfare states in the era of‘the Great Recession’: matching increasing needs, decreasing resources and heterogeneous public preferences. The previous chapters have illustrated, virtually without exception, the complexity, multicausality and tensions that go with this task. Three cases were studied in detail, each with its own ‘story’ and dynamics. From these three stories, this chapter aims to draw some lessons from the way the Dutch Government has dealt with these incompatible developments and tries to generalise these lessons to the European level.

    Let us first revisit the theoretical...