Employment Protection, Unemployment Compensation and Activation in Europe
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils
Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils A PARADIGM SHIFT IN SOCIAL POLICY: FROM PASSIVE TO ACTIVE MEASURES Since the 1990s it has become more or less conventional wisdom in most European countries that the predominant passive character of social policy should be replaced by more active measures. The welfare state that was built up in the post-Second World War period in Western Europe might have been quite successful in reducing poverty and providing income protection, but it proved unable to cope with the sharp rise of unemployment and the rapidly increasing numbers of benefit claimants after the oil shocks of the 1970s. Moreover, in the 1990s it became widely accepted that the rising number of beneficiaries was at least partly caused – or aggravated – by the passive character of the welfare state. From a failing solution to the problem of a malfunctioning economy, the welfare state became the problem itself. During the 1990s, two main approaches were advocated to tackle the problems of the welfare state. The first was the (neo)liberal approach of welfare state retrenchment. To put it bluntly, this approach tries to remedy the flaws of the welfare state by reducing it and creating more room for the market and the private provision of income insurance. The main weakness of this approach is, of course, that it neglects the reasons why the welfare state was introduced in the first place, that is, to compensate for market failures. Shifting the responsibility for social protection from the state back to...