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 8: Immigration, Trust and Support for the Welfare State

Heikki Ervasti and Mikael Hjerm

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


Heikki Ervasti and Mikael Hjerm INTRODUCTION It is often claimed that one of the major challenges facing European welfare states is how to maintain and strengthen the bonds of solidarity in ethnically diverse societies. A commonly expressed fear is that the European welfare states will become ‘Americanized’, as increasing ethnic heterogeneity will make it impossible to preserve the level of interpersonal trust and social solidarity needed to maintain the welfare state. High levels of immigration, and thus increasing heterogeneity within countries, are often seen as a threat to the existence of the welfare state. The latter can be captured in what is termed the ‘progressive dilemma’ (Godhart, 2004; Wolfe and Klausen, 1997), where the liberal question is how to support the welfare state as well as an open immigration policy regime, when the two may in fact be irreconcilable goals. This is a serious problem if, and only if, solidarity diminishes with increasing heterogeneity, which in turn leads to threats to the welfare state. This chapter puts the hypothesis concerning increasing anti-solidarity to an empirical test. The hypothesis suggests that immigration leads to declining levels of trust and solidarity in society, mainly because people see an increasing proportion of welfare benefits being targeted towards immigrants. Declining interpersonal trust and solidarity lead to increasing welfare chauvinism, i.e. the fear that new immigrant groups take away jobs and social security benefits and services. Gradually, according to the anti-solidarity hypothesis, public support for the welfare state (i.e. the broad principle that the government...

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