Unemployment, welfare policies and citizenship: different paths in Western Europe

Jørgen Goul Andersen and Knut Halvorsen

in Changing labour markets, welfare policies and citizenship

Published by Policy Press

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9781861342720
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447301660 | DOI:
Unemployment, welfare policies and citizenship: different paths in Western Europe

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One of the characteristics of the ‘new politics of welfare’ is the emphasis on work as a crucial precondition of citizenship, at the expense of the traditional emphasis on social rights and equality. To some extent, the attempts to redefine citizenship also represent an effort to make virtue out of necessity. Political actors from most countries have learned from the negative experiences of the 1970s and the 1980s when the rights-oriented and labour-force reducing welfare policies were used to fight unemployment. Even the strongest advocates of social protection have acknowledged that economically unsustainable welfare policies do not leave much room for discussing the ideals of citizenship. However, this left a notion of economic determinism in social theory. The question is whether globalisation and technological change comprise such strong constraints for welfare policies that only one path is possible, with the consequence that a new doctrine of full citizenship compatible with economic realities has to be formulated. This chapter presents an account of the ‘standard interpretation’ of unemployment and labour market marginalisation in Europe that has guided policy recommendations across Europe. It explores the recent European experience, whether there is a pressure for convergence or whether several possible pathways are open — pathways with different implications for the ideals of full citizenship. The main concern in this chapter is to ask whether the questions relating to unemployment, welfare policies and citizenship should be reformulated. The questions and the answers stemmed from three sources: economic theory; systematic macro- or micro-level empirical analyses in relation to economic theories; and in-depth case studies. In the succeeding sections of the chapter, these theories and hypotheses are summarised into a ‘standard interpretation’ guided by economic theory and ‘institutional interpretations’ which seek to formulate alternatives.

Keywords: politics of welfare; citizenship; unemployment; social protection; welfare policies; standard interpretation; labour market marginalisation; Europe

Chapter.  7284 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Occupations, Professions, and Work

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