Family and the Welfare State in Europe

Family and the Welfare State in Europe

Intergenerational Relations in Ageing Societies

Agnes Blome, Wolfgang Keck and Jens Alber

This insightful book explores the role of both the family and the state in shaping the living conditions of the young and old in Europe. It provides a comparative theoretical and empirical analysis of age-related policies and welfare arrangements in Germany, France, Italy and Sweden.

Chapter 4: The Four Welfare Regimes Compared

Agnes Blome, Wolfgang Keck and Jens Alber

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, welfare states


In the following, we discuss the key variations in the country-specific welfare arrangements and situate the four countries in the context of Western European welfare regimes. First, using selected indicators, we describe the general organizational principles as well as the institutional forms the national systems take. Then we more closely examine two aspects central to our investigation: the distribution of welfare state benefits to various age groups and the images of intergenerational relationships that predominate in the population. 4.1 CHARACTERISTICS AND PRINCIPLES OF THE WELFARE REGIMES The concept of a welfare regime refers to the manner in which welfare – seen as an interaction between state, market, and family or private household – is produced or organized in a particular country (Esping-Andersen 1999).1 Comparative welfare state research has long focused on the relationship between state and market, and it has only been relatively recently that attention has turned to examining the relationship between state and family. As our research interest is in the relationship between generations, the following overview – after a short summary of current typologies of welfare states – focuses primarily on the country-specific role of the family and its position in social policy. There is a long tradition in comparative welfare state research of trying to reduce the empirical complexity of welfare state arrangements to a few basic types.2 The simplest and best known is the dichotomy between Bismarckian and Beveridgian countries. Welfare policy in the former was primarily oriented to providing security to employees; in countries of the latter...

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