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 7: Legitimacy of the System and Support for the Welfare State

Torben Fridberg

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


Torben Fridberg INTRODUCTION The comprehensive and costly welfare state systems of Western industrialized countries are continuously under pressure from a number of directions. Ageing populations, their increasing diversity and rising expectations call for increasing expenditure on social security and services, at the same time as globalization, international competition and high levels of unemployment are restricting the capacity for financing expansive welfare policies in most European countries. Public budget deficits are continuously raising debates about welfare state systems, and frequently the welfare states are criticized for being too expensive, for being damaging to the functioning of the labour market or for placing too great a strain on the economy. They are additionally criticized for being too inefficient in actually delivering the intended benefits and services in an appropriate and fair way. All experiences show that the social security and services provided by the Western welfare state countries are greatly appreciated by their populations and any attempt to cut back levels of benefits or the provision of services is generally met with rejection. However, experience also shows that retrenchment and cost-containing restructuring of welfare state systems under some conditions might also be widely accepted. It seems obvious that a precondition for the public support of costly welfare state systems is that people actually find that the systems work as intended and believe that they are to personal advantage, and the advantage of their family and the community or country in which they live. If the system is not believed to be sustainable...

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