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Resilient or residual? From the wage earners' welfare state to market conformity in New Zealand


  • Starke, Peter


Contemporary research has frequently stressed the resilience of welfare states facing internal and external problem pressure or ideologically motivated attacks. Theoretical explanations of welfare state change have in part been eclipsed by explanations of its remarkable stability. But does the resilience thesis hold? Taking the case of New Zea-land, this paper demonstrates that under certain conditions major transformation is pos-sible. Since 1975, New Zealand has changed from being a `wage earners´ welfare state´ to having only a residual system of social protection. Adopting a qualitative approach, the paper describes the process of welfare state retrenchment through different phases and discusses what economic and political-institutional conditions account for the un-usually large extent of cutbacks. Quantitative data confirm the pattern of retrenchment with the most extensive cutbacks taking place in the early 1990s under conservative rule. This pattern does not, however, bear out the expectation of `blame avoidance´ behaviour, as assumed by previous research. Despite the unpopularity of retrenchment, governments in New Zealand frequently used the opportunities provided by the central-ised political system to push through highly visible reforms.

Suggested Citation

  • Starke, Peter, 2005. "Resilient or residual? From the wage earners' welfare state to market conformity in New Zealand," TranState Working Papers 22, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:22

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul Dalziel, 2002. "New Zealand's Economic Reforms: An assessment," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1), pages 31-46.
    2. Lewis Evans & Arthur Grimes & Bryce Wilkinson, 1996. "Economic Reform in New Zealand 1984-95: The Pursuit of Efficiency," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 1856-1902, December.
    3. Castles, Francis G., 2004. "The Future of the Welfare State: Crisis Myths and Crisis Realities," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199273928.
    4. Obinger, Herbert & Leibfried, Stephan & Bogedan, Claudia & Gindulis, Edith & Moser, Julia & Starke, Peter, 2005. "8 Welfare state transformation in small open economies," European Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(S1), pages 161-185, March.
    5. Weaver, R. Kent, 1986. "The Politics of Blame Avoidance," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(4), pages 371-398, October.
    6. James P. Allan & Lyle Scruggs, 2004. "Political Partisanship and Welfare State Reform in Advanced Industrial Societies," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 48(3), pages 496-512, July.
    7. Thomas Dalsgaard, 2001. "The Tax System in New Zealand: An Appraisal and Options for Change," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 281, OECD Publishing.
    8. Quiggin, John, 1998. "Social Democracy and Market Reform in Australia and New Zealand," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(1), pages 76-95, Spring.
    9. Ganghof, Steffen, 2001. "Global markets, national tax systems, and domestic politics: Rebalancing efficiency and equity in open states' income taxation," MPIfG Discussion Paper 01/9, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
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