Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe
Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Jørgen Goul Andersen, Torben Fridberg and Kristen Ringdal
Chapter 7: Legitimacy of the System and Support for the Welfare State
Torben Fridberg INTRODUCTION The comprehensive and costly welfare state systems of Western industrialized countries are continuously under pressure from a number of directions. Ageing populations, their increasing diversity and rising expectations call for increasing expenditure on social security and services, at the same time as globalization, international competition and high levels of unemployment are restricting the capacity for financing expansive welfare policies in most European countries. Public budget deficits are continuously raising debates about welfare state systems, and frequently the welfare states are criticized for being too expensive, for being damaging to the functioning of the labour market or for placing too great a strain on the economy. They are additionally criticized for being too inefficient in actually delivering the intended benefits and services in an appropriate and fair way. All experiences show that the social security and services provided by the Western welfare state countries are greatly appreciated by their populations and any attempt to cut back levels of benefits or the provision of services is generally met with rejection. However, experience also shows that retrenchment and cost-containing restructuring of welfare state systems under some conditions might also be widely accepted. It seems obvious that a precondition for the public support of costly welfare state systems is that people actually find that the systems work as intended and believe that they are to personal advantage, and the advantage of their family and the community or country in which they live. If the system is not believed to be sustainable...
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