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