The Future of the Welfare State

The Future of the Welfare State

Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Jørgen Goul Andersen, Torben Fridberg and Kristen Ringdal

At a time when welfare states in Europe are coming under increasing pressure from both growing demand and, in some countries, severe financial austerity measures, the attitudes of ordinary people and European social cohesion are much debated. Using data from the European Social Survey, these empirical analyses examine welfare state attitudes and draw conclusions for the future. Theoretically the book is linked to analyses of altering social risks, policy challenges, policy changes and policy performance of the European welfare states. The analyses in the book explore a variety of individual and macro-level determinants of welfare policy attitudes ranging from socio-economic factors to religiosity, but a special emphasis is laid on solidarity, social cohesion and social capital among European nations.

Chapter 4: Economic Globalization, Personal Risks and the Demand for a Comprehensive Welfare State

Henning Finseraas and Kristen Ringdal

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, welfare states


Henning Finseraas and Kristen Ringdal INTRODUCTION Citizens have various reasons to support comprehensive public welfare arrangements, but some stable patterns can be identified. One part of the systematic element of welfare state support is related to whether people primarily benefit from or contribute to the financing of public welfare, with low income and low-skilled workers being particularly supportive of public welfare. A vast amount of research documents this as being the case regarding support for government redistribution of income (e.g. Cusack et al., 2006). Recent research has shifted attention from the importance of the prevailing economic situation to the importance of beliefs about changes in income. Consistent with this, the objective risk of income loss seems to drive preferences for government redistribution of income (Rehm, 2009; Alesina and Guiliano, 2009). One strand of this literature highlights how beliefs about increased income make some current beneficiaries of generous welfare arrangements less supportive of these arrangements; because they expect to be net contributors in the future and/or view extensive government activity as a hindrance to their own mobility (see Alesina et al., 2001, pp. 25–7). This chapter contributes to the related literature on how the objective and perceived risks of future income loss are related to welfare state preferences. We add to this literature by going beyond preferences for redistribution and examine how the objective and subjective risks of income loss are related to preferences regarding the scope of the welfare state and the design of the welfare state. By going...

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