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European Welfare States after the Crisis

European Welfare States after the Crisis

Patrick Diamond & Guy Lodge

28 January 2013

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European Welfare States after the Crisis: Changing public attitudes

Governments in the UK and elsewhere in Europe are taking a position on welfare reform which is in line with public opinion, but may be the wrong strategic choice in the long-term - prioritising benefits for older people at the expense of families and children who have been hit hard by the financial crisis.
 
This is the central argument of a substantial new Policy Network/IPPR paper. When it comes to making reforms to the welfare system, defending existing social security entitlements at the expense of families and children, is the public's preferred choice, according to a major piece of new comparative YouGov polling in the UK, Denmark and France.

Centre-left parties must face up to tough choices and take political risks if they want to maintain fiscal credibility and at the same time continue to tackle family poverty and extend early years opportunities in an era of austerity: they must be prepared to develop new arguments and find new ways of talking about fairness that justifies additional spending on children and families.
 
Authors Patrick Diamond and Guy Lodge argue, “The crisis looks to be shoring up the ‘old’ welfare state edifice at precisely the moment when Europe’s welfare states ought to be adapting in the light of major structural challenges.”
 
A significant danger identified by Diamond and Lodge is that growing inequalities in electoral participation might further entrench the welfare status quo and heighten the onset of intergenerational and distributional conflict.

About the authors:

Patrick Diamond is a senior research fellow at Policy Network. He is also Gwilym Gibbon Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, a Research Fellow at Manchester University and a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of Oxford. He is the former Head of Policy Planning in 10 Downing Street and Senior Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister.

Guy Lodge is associate director at IPPR and Gwilym Gibbon Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. He is also the co-editor of Juncture, IPPR’s quarterly politics and ideas journal.

Published in partnership with IPPR and The Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS).

This paper has been featured in articles in The Guardian and New Statesman.

This article is a contribution to Policy Network's work on The new age of distributional conflict.

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Responses to European Welfare States after the Crisis:

Growing public insecurity will clash with staunch reform
Social democrats should be wary of straying too far from public opinion when facing up to the need for welfare reform.
Kristian Weise

Welfare reform: Public opinion angst and framing
Research illustrates that governments have much more leeway in reforming policies than public opinion surveys may suggest, but how they frame the issues is important.
Gijs Schumacher

Decision time for the Left on welfare
The British public hold high notions of welfare 'benefits in return for contributions'. This gives the Left answers and headaches in equal measure.
David Goodhart & Duncan O’Leary

Standing up to welfare state conservatism
Taking a defensive stance on welfare is attractive; but the left will not regain the mantle of economic competence with evasive political moves.
Steve Van Riel

Rejecting welfare state pessimism
The squeeze on social welfare is a consequence of the government decisions not inevitable decline. The Left’s response should be one of pragmatic optimism not despair.
Andrew Harrop

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