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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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Starke, Peter & Kaasch, Alexandra & van Hooren, Franca, 2011. "Explaining the variety of social policy responses to economic crisis: How parties and welfare state structures interact," TranState Working Papers 154, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:154
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    1. Dolls, Mathias & Fuest, Clemens & Peichl, Andreas, 2012. "Automatic stabilizers and economic crisis: US vs. Europe," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 279-294.
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    4. 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 2008 - 2015 350, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    5. Ebbinghaus, Bernhard, 2008. "Reforming Early Retirement in Europe, Japan and the USA," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199553396.
    6. Pablo AntolĂ­n & 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.
    7. 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, vol. 21(3), pages 54-73.
    8. Tsebelis, George, 1995. "Decision Making in Political Systems: Veto Players in Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, Multicameralism and Multipartyism," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(03), pages 289-325, July.
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    10. Kittel, Bernhard & Obinger, Herbert, 2002. "Political parties, institutions, and the dynamics of social expenditure in times of austerity," MPIfG Discussion Paper 02/1, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
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