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Welfare State Decommodification: Concepts, Operationalizations and Long-term Trends

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  • Olivier Pintelon
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    Welfare state decommodification is one of the central concepts in the comparative study of welfare states. Mainstream literature on the subject has however two important shortcomings: (1) it neglects the decommodifying potential of labour market institutions (‘in-work decommodification’) and (2) it is mainly occupied with cross-national variation – not longitudinal change. This paper presents indicators of ‘benefit decommodification’ and ‘in-work decommodification’ as to determine whether long-term trends exist – going back to the early 1980s. On the whole, no generic trends are found, but some clear country clusters can be distinguished. Most remarkable is the substantial recommodification in most Nordic countries and the Netherlands. The Anglo-Saxon EU member states – on the other hand – are characterized by increasing welfare state decommodification since the mid-1980s, following a short period of substantial retrenchment in the early 1980s. In sum, we find indications of modest convergence, especially among EU countries. Besides, we observe that high ‘benefit decommodification’ is consistent with high ‘in-work decommodification’ – although the longitudinal relationship is less outspoken.

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    Paper provided by Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp in its series Working Papers with number 1210.

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    Date of creation: Nov 2012
    Handle: RePEc:hdl:wpaper:1210
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    1. Henning Lohmann, 2008. "Welfare States, Labour Market Institutions and the Working Poor: A Comparative Analysis of 20 European Countries," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 776, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Koen Caminada & Kees Goudswaard & Olaf Van Vliet, 2010. "Patterns of Welfare State Indicators in the EU: Is there Convergence?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48, pages 529-556, June.
    3. Bea Cantillon & Wim Van Lancker, 2011. "Solidarity and reciprocity in the social investment state: what can be learned from the case of Flemish school allowances and truancy?," Working Papers 1109, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    4. Esping-Andersen, Gosta, 1999. "Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198742005.
    5. Lane Kenworthy, 1998. "Do Social-Welfare Policies Reduce Poverty? A Cross-National Assessment," LIS Working papers 188, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    6. Chris Holden, 2003. "Decommodification and the Workfare State," Political Studies Review, Political Studies Association, vol. 1(3), pages 303-316.
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