Welfare Policies in the Enlarged Europe

Funded by: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Project Status/ Period: 2009-2014, ongoing.

Research Questions: Can convergence of welfare policy arrangements be observed in the enlarged Europe between 1995 and 2008 and if so, in which direction is convergence pointed (e. g. race to the bottom, race to the top or a new European model)? In case national differences and divergent welfare regime types persist, do the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe align themselves with one of the Western European welfare regimes or do they establish a welfare regime of their own?

Research Area/Methods: Quantitative comparative aggregate data analysis; pooled time-series cross-section analysis.

Data: The data collected within the project is embedded in the Comparative Welfare Entitlements Dataset 2 (CWED2) in cooperation with Prof. Lyle Scruggs. Prospectively, the data will be extended to include several additional household types.

Short Description:

The research project aims at analyzing welfare policy patterns and their development in the enlarged Europe. Over the last decades welfare states have been challenged by several factors. First, both Western and Central and Eastern European (CEE) welfare states are confronted with multi-faceted challenges such as competition, pressures caused by increased economic globalization, major demographic changes, societies′ socio-economic structures as well as social security system austerity.

Second, many politicians and scholars suspect that the entirety of the above-mentioned challenges as well as the integration of the post-communist countries in the European Union could entail a race to the bottom and reduce welfare state standards in Europe as a whole. This position is primarily based on the assumption that in the course of the economic and political transition CEE countries were likely to reform their welfare systems by introducing only rudimentary social security systems along more or less liberal lines.

Third, due to globalization and in particular European integration, political systems have increasingly become interdependent and the diffusion of policies across borders has been extended. Hence, if the proponents of the race to the bottom hypothesis prove to be correct, a downward convergence of welfare policy patterns and standards across Europe is to be expected. However, several factors suggest other trends. For instance domestic responses and possible path-dependent policy developments may cause the reactions and subsequent policy changes vis-à-vis the challenges and competition pressure to turn out differently.

The core question being asked is whether a convergence of welfare policy can be observed in the enlarged Europe and if so in which direction convergence is pointed (e. g. race to the bottom, race to the top or a new European model). In case national differences and divergent welfare regime types persist we aim at investigating whether post-communist countries align themselves with one of the Western European welfare regimes or whether they establish a welfare regime of their own. We analyse welfare policy patterns and their development in 26 Western and Eastern European countries between 1995 and 2007.

Until now systematic, empirical, comparative insight regarding the welfare policy developments in both Western and Central and Eastern Europe is still lacking. Based on Esping-Andersen′s regime typology and its main advancements we will consider core institutional and programmatic welfare state settings along four dimensions (old age, sickness, unemployment and family policies), namely: eligibility criteria, income replacement rates and programme coverage. For many Western European countries elaborated data is available from Lyle Scruggs' Comparative Welfare Entitlements Dataset. Along the lines of Scruggs' set we will collect data for the remaining European countries. In addition, we will include characteristics of the financing principles (tax vs. contributions) and general principles of entitlement (citizenship vs. employee status).

By generating aggregate measures for the overall characteristics of welfare policy patterns we first seek to analyse if and which countries cluster along different types of welfare states. Second, in order to test the convergence/divergence hypothesis, we focus on these patterns' development over time. In the second part of the analysis we will test hypotheses regarding welfare policy patterns and their development with respect to the causal impact of international (Globalization, Diffusion, Europeanization) and domestic factors (ideological positions and strength of governmental parties; path dependency; transitional factors in the case of CEE countries). The causal impact of these factors on welfare policy arrangements will be analysed by means of time-series cross-section analysis.

The influence parameters can be separated into four areas: First, we analyze the influence of extra-parliamentary mobilization by environmental movements that open specific opportunity structure for the adoption of environmental policies. Second, we investigate the influence of parliamentarian mobilization. Concrete hypotheses in this area can be inferred from the parties matter hypothesis and veto player theory. Third, environmental policies are increasingly influenced by international factors. Therefore we integrate hypotheses and analyses which consider the influence of international institutions and diffusion processes. Fourth, we control for specific national conditions such as the climate and socio-economic factors.

Project Team:
Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Detlef Jahn
Current research fellows: Kati Kuitto; Nils Düpont
Graduate Researcher: Tim Grafe; Jan Helmdag; Eric Lingner
Former Research Staff Members: Marieke Broeren; Svea Gockel; Alexander Horn; Lena Masch


Kuitto, Kati (2015). Post-Communist Welfare States in European Context: Patterns of Welfare Policies in Central and Eastern Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing (in preparation).

Kuitto, Kati and Jan Helmdag (2014). Learning from success? Diffusion of active labour market policies in the OECD countries. Paper to be presented at the2014 Annual ESPAnet Conference, Oslo, 4-6 September, Stream 1: Diffusion of ideas.

Kuitto, Kati (2014). Trends of social investment and social security policies in a life course perspective. Paper presented at the International Conference "Assessing the social investment strategy", IDHEAP Lausanne, April 10-11.

Kuitto, Kati (2013). Spending for social investment - New versus old welfare policy objectives? Paper presented at the 11th Annual ESPAnet Conference, Stream 16 'Social Investment', Poznan, September 5-7.

Kuitto, Kati (2012). Emerging Patterns of Welfare Policies in Central and Eastern Europe. Post-Communist Welfare States in the European Context. Dissertation, University of Greifswald.

Kuitto, Kati, Detlef Jahn und Nils Düpont (2012). Welfare policy institutions in the enlarged EU - convergence, divergence or persistence? Greifswald Comparative Politics Working paper No. 1/2012. [Download...]

Kuitto, Kati (2011). More than just money: Patterns of disaggregated welfare expenditure in the enlarged Europe, in: Journal of European Social Policy, Vol. 21(4), 348-364. [Download...]

Kuitto, Kati, Detlef Jahn and Nils Düpont (2011). Convergence, divergence or persistence of welfare policy institutions in the enlarged European Union? Paper presented at the ECPR General Conference, Reykjavik, August 25-27.

Jahn, Detlef, Kati Kuitto and Nils Düpont (together with Eric Lingner, Marieke Broeren and Tim Grafe) (2011). Interim report of the research project "Welfare policies in the enlarged Europe". Research report, University of Greifswald. Available upon request.

Kuitto, Kati (2010). Identifying welfare policy patterns by means of disaggregated spending structure: An application for 28 European countries. Paper presented at the 8th Annual ESPAnet Conference, Stream 3 'Comparative methodology. Neglected issues and innovative methods: Identifying best practice', Budapest, September 2-4.