Edited by Pascal Petit and Luc Soete
Chapter 15: Employment, unemployment and ageing in the West European welfare states
Lars Mjøset1 The postwar West European welfare state, which matured from the 1960s, represents a major historical achievement: it has granted the broad masses of citizens social rights and security at an unprecedented level. But not long after these welfare states matured, since the early 1970s, most West European countries have experienced a movement to higher levels of unemployment (Table 15.1). A number of other worrying features of the West European situation have been noted: higher rates of long-term unemployment, an increasing volume of part-time work with little job protection, and an increasing number of people in precarious labour market positions. The trend is striking: with the exception of the UK (with its very restrictive statistical counting of unemployed persons), all the larger EU countries were in the high unemployment group (more than 10 per cent). Exceptions are getting more scarce: by the late 1990s, among the countries listed in Table 15.1, only the UK, Denmark and Ireland – once in the high unemployment group – have been able to escape back to a medium level (between 5 and 10 per cent), and only Norway and the Netherlands have been able to jump back from medium to low unemployment (below 5 per cent). What part has the welfare state played in this development? In the following analysis, we explore the relationship between the welfare state and labour market developments, unemployment in particular. Our analysis relates potential welfare state/unemployment links to major processes of socioeconomic transformation since the late 1960s. A brief...
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