Welfare States and Public Opinion

Welfare States and Public Opinion

Perceptions of Healthcare Systems, Family Policy and Benefits for the Unemployed and Poor in Europe

Claus Wendt, Monika Mischke and Michaela Pfeifer

Welfare States and Public Opinion comprises an informed inquiry into three fields of social policy – health policy, family policy, and unemployment benefits and social assistance. Though the analyses stem from research spanning fifteen countries across Europe, the conclusions can be applied to social policy problems in nations worldwide. Combining a detailed analysis of the institutional structure of social policy with the study of public attitudes toward healthcare, family policy, and benefits for the unemployed and poor, this book represents a new stream in public opinion research. The authors demonstrate that the institutional designs of social policies have a great impact on inequalities among social groups, and provide best practices for gaining public support for social policy reform.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Claus Wendt, Monika Mischke and Michaela Pfeifer

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, economics and finance, health policy and economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, health policy and economics, welfare states

Extract

The welfare state has become an integral part of everyday life and people’s life chances in European countries. Most Europeans are socialized in an environment of economic and psychological security regarding certain life risks such as ill health, accidents and old age. However, due to economic turbulences and persistently high unemployment, the angst of sliding down the social ladder is not unknown, even for parts of the middle class. Despite the economic prosperity enjoyed by millions in times of the German Wirtschaftswunder and the Nederlandse Mirakel, today’s economy and labor market alone cannot safeguard people’s trust in the future. Unemployment benefits and social assistance schemes intended to protect against the consequences of job loss and low income during working age have become important for an increasing part of the population, and family policy measures are critical today in helping parents to combine work and family life, reduce child poverty and improve their life chances. While unemployment benefits and social assistance schemes, that is, schemes of working-aged protection, are relevant for certain parts of the population and family policy measures apply to a limited period of life, health policy impacts the entire population over the entire lifespan. In this volume, we analyze citizens’ perceptions of social policy in European countries. This issue is of particular importance since social policy should serve as a means for reducing economic and psychological insecurity and improving the life chances of the population. To evaluate the achievement of these goals, one should not only take into...