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Explaining the variety of social policy responses to economic crisis: How parties and welfare state structures interact


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  • Starke, Peter
  • Kaasch, Alexandra
  • van Hooren, Franca
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    This paper maps and explains the reactions of four welfare states - Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden - to three global crisis situations - the oil shocks of the 1970s, the worldwide recession of the early 1990s, and the financial crisis from 2008 onwards. Two main conclusions follow from the analysis: First, using a comprehensive typology of social policy reactions to crises, we show that crisis reactions were surprisingly diverse. There is no uniform policy response, as policies range from retrenchment through non-response to welfare state expansion. Second, explaining the variation regarding expansion vs. retrenchment we focus on the partisan composition of government, and the size of the existing welfare state, which may operate as an important automatic stabilizer during recessions. While none of these factors alone is sufficient, their interaction is able to explain most of the specific social policy responses adopted in the four countries studied. -- Das Arbeitspapier beschreibt und erklärt die Reaktionen von vier Wohlfahrtsstaaten - Australien, Belgien, die Niederlande und Schweden - auf drei globale Krisensituationen - die Ölpreisschocks der 1970er Jahre, die weltweite Rezession in den frühen 1990ern und die Finanzkrise nach 2008. Zwei Schlussfolgerungen können gezogen werden: Erstens zeigen wir, basierend auf einer umfassenden Typologie sozialpolitischer Krisenreaktionen, dass Krisenreaktionen überraschend unterschiedlich ausfielen. Es gibt keine einheitliche Krisenantwort, Reaktionen reichen vielmehr von Kürzungen, über bewusste Nicht-Reaktion, bis hin zu sozialpolitischem Ausbau. Zweitens konzentrieren wir uns zur Erklärung der Variation im Hinblick auf Rückbau und Ausbau einerseits auf die parteipolitische Zusammensetzung der Regierung und andererseits auf die Größe des existierenden Wohlfahrtsstaats, der in Zeiten wirtschaftlicher Rezession als wichtiger automatischer Stabilisator wirken kann. Obgleich keiner dieser Faktoren allein ausreicht, ist ihre Interaktion in der Lage, die meisten spezifischen sozialpolitischen Reaktionen der vier Länder zu erklären.

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    Paper provided by University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State in its series TranState Working Papers with number 154.

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    Date of creation: 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:154

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    1. Meredith Edwards & Peter Whiteford, 1988. "The Development of Government Policies on Poverty and Income Distribution," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 21(3), pages 54-73.
    2. Alexander Hijzen & Danielle Venn, 2011. "The Role of Short-Time Work Schemes during the 2008-09 Recession," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 115, OECD Publishing.
    3. Pablo Antolín & Fiona Stewart, 2009. "Private Pensions and Policy Responses to the Financial and Economic Crisis," OECD Working Papers on Insurance and Private Pensions 36, OECD Publishing.
    4. Julia Darby & Jacques Melitz, 2008. "Social spending and automatic stabilizers in the OECD," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 715-756, October.
    5. Mathias Dolls & Clemens Fuest & Andreas Peichl, 2010. "Automatic Stabilizers and Economic Crisis: US vs. Europe," Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences 01-02, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences.
    6. Ebbinghaus, Bernhard, 2008. "Reforming Early Retirement in Europe, Japan and the USA," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780199553396, October.
    7. Obinger, Herbert & Starke, Peter & Moser, Julia & Bogedan, Claudia & Gindulis, Edith & Leibfried, Stephan, 2010. "Transformations of the Welfare State: Small States, Big Lessons," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780199296323, October.
    8. Lars Jonung & Jaakko Kiander & Pentti Vartia, 2008. "The great financial crisis in Finland and Sweden - The dynamics of boom, bust and recovery, 1985-2000," European Economy - Economic Papers, Directorate General Economic and Monetary Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission 350, Directorate General Economic and Monetary Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
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