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The welfare state

Did a decrease in welfare spending on unemployed people in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2003 influence how secure the welfare system makes young people with low education feel?

Essay 2006 7 Seiten

Politik - Politische Systeme - Allgemeines und Vergleiche


Research Question:

“Did a decrease in welfare spending on unemployed people in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2003 influence how secure the welfare system makes young people with low education feel?

Section 1: The Research Question

The welfare state, as defined by Esping-Andersen “involves state responsibility for securing some basic modicum for welfare for its citizens and (….) the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing in the society” (1990, pp.19-20).

Welfare spending includes “all interventions (…) intended to relieve households and individuals of the burden of a defined set of risks or needs, provided that there is neither a simultaneous reciprocal nor an individual arrangement involved”, whereby social benefits (measured in % of GDP) as elements of welfare spending consist of “transfers, in cash or in kind, by social protection schemes to households or individuals to relieve them of the burden of risks or needs” (Eurostat 2006).

The definition of unemployment as recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and used among others by the Statistical Office of the European Union (EU) is applied. The unemployed comprise all persons above a specified age who during the reference period were: a. without work, b. currently available for work, c. seeking work (Eurostat 2006).

Following the guidelines of the ILO, the unemployment rate consequently equals the percentage of economically active people who are unemployed on the ILO measure (ILO 1997).

The United Nations General Assembly defined ‘youth’, as those persons falling between the ages of 15 and 24 years inclusive.This definition is internationally accepted and amongst others used by the Statistical Office of the EU (Eurostat 2006) and will therefore be used in this comparative study.

Education as defined by the International Classification of Education 1997 comprises of three distinguishing levels: less than upper secondary (ISCED 1 or 2); upper secondary (ISCED 3-4); and third level (ISCED 5-6). Therefore, ‘low-education’ corresponds to the less than upper secondary education by the International Classification of Education standards (ISCED 1 or 2) (The European Union online 1997).

The three countries used in this comparative study are prime examples of Esping-Andersen’s (1990) three types of welfare states, with Sweden exemplifying the social-democratic type, United Kingdom the liberal type, and Germany the conservative type.

European welfare states have often been regarded as an identifiable group forming a “European social model” where “comparability between the different systems is given”. Furthermore “variation between this ‘social model’ allows for the study of different contexts in a controlled setting” (Fraile and Ferrer, p.6).

Studying the effects on welfare spending cuts in different welfare regimes that distribute provisions differently between the state, market, and the family (Esping-Andersen 1990, pp. 69-77) allows an even more detailed analysis of attitudes towards social security. According to Eurostat (2006) statistics, there has been a decrease in social benefits as a % of GDP for unemployed in Germany, United Kingdom and Sweden from 1996-2003 affecting big public concerns following welfare state reforms in these three countries (The Swedish Institute 2005; ILO 1997). The different extent of welfare retrenchment within these countries in that time period allows a good comparison of its effects on social security felt by young people with low education.

According to EU statistics (The European Union Online 1996) virtually the same percentage of low-educated young people were unemployed in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom in 1995. This enables an analysis of the social security felt by young people with lower education, rather than a comparative analysis being influenced by absolute numbers of unemployed. The comparison of attitudes towards different welfare systems and their social security provided can therefore be assured.

The question raised in this comparative study is of major importance. Throughout Europe, unemployment rates are higher among young people than among the general population. In 2000, the rate of youth unemployment within EU was around 16%, more than twice the rate experienced by adults (7%). This makes the youth unemployment problem even more acute than that of overall employment (Eurostat 2004). Of particular concern are those young people in the EU that are low-qualified as the rate of unemployment amongst them can be up to four times that of their peers who have a higher education level (The European Union Online 1996). This clearly shows that people with a lower education are more dependent on social security, namely unemployment benefits, provided by the welfare state.

In this era of welfare retrenchment that cuts back social benefits (Esping-Andersen 2002; Clayton and Pontusson 1998), it is most significant to identify people’s attitudes that are most reliant on welfare state support, namely young people with low education level that are likely to become unemployed themselves.

Analysing the influence of a decrease in welfare spending on the sense of security provided in different welfare regimes could furthermore give indications for the ability of different welfare states to respond effectively to current concerns; this ability “will inevitably differ due both to their inherent strengths and weaknesses” (Esping-Andersen 2002, p.13).



ISBN (eBook)
429 KB
Institution / Hochschule
University of Limerick
germany sweden united kingdom




Titel: The welfare state