Handbook of European Social Policy
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Handbook of European Social Policy

Edited by Patricia Kennett and Noemi Lendvai-Bainton

This Handbook will comprise of 29 original pieces from key contributors to the field of European social policy. It is intended to capture the ‘state of the art’ in European social policy and to generate and contribute to debates on the the future of European social policy in the 21st Century. It will be a comprehensive and authoritative resource for research and teaching covering themes and policy areas including social exclusion, pensions, education, children and family, as well as mobility and migration, multiculturalism, and climate change.
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Chapter 13: Southern European welfare regimes: from differentiation to reconvergence?

Chiara Saraceno


The Southern European welfare regimes had started to differentiate themselves just at the time, the 1990s, when the existence of this particular kind of regime, or family of nations, was being acknowledged in the literature and being studied, even considering it as a possible model of developmental path for the South Eastern European countries then emerging from communist regimes. The ‘recalibration process’ initiated under the multiple external and internal pressures of the Maastricht Treaty, globalization, post- industrialism, changing gender arrangements and women’s demands, demographic change and so forth, pushed in partly similar and partly different directions and with varying intensity and timing, but also different starting points as well as economic dynamics. At the onset of the crisis, therefore, the four countries were in the process of changing their welfare regimes in different directions, thus suggesting the likelihood that the ‘Southern European welfare regime’ as such would disarticulate, with each country following different logics, or political etiquettes. In particular, Portugal and especially Spain showed a greater dynamism than Italy and Greece. The economic crisis, which was particularly severe and longer lasting in these four countries, while exposing the weakness and unbalances of the welfare arrangements in the four countries, strengthened the ‘retrenching’ over the ‘catching up’ dimension of the recalibrating process, although, again, to a different degree in each country, with Greece and Spain at the opposite ends.

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