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Inhaltsbereich: Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung

Policy reforms and discourses in social assistance in the 1990s: Towards 'activation'?



"Social assistance schemes have received more attention in the general welfare state reform debate since the early 1980s. For most of the time after WW II social assistance schemes had been perceived as a residual and declining branch of the overall welfare system. Social inclusion was meant to be achieved through full and life-long employment by the male breadwinner, expanding social insurance systems which increasingly included the whole population and stable family structures. Indeed, most of the West-European countries achieved these goals and the scope for social assistance - where it was already established - as a scheme of last resort was limited. Other countries, particularly in Southern Europe, lacked this kind of scheme. In the paper we are going to analyse reforms of the social assistance scheme in the 1990s for a number of countries. As the relationship between work and social assistance is the most disputed issue in the reform debate we are focusing on the general assistance schemes for unemployed and workless persons. We use the term ‚social assistance’ to refer to a public, means-tested and tax-financed transfers and services for people in need. Our paper is confined to social assistance schemes targeted at people in an working age. We will discuss continuity and change on two levels: reforms of social assistance policies and the discourses on social assistance. Even though we are well aware that institutions and interests play a major role in the politics of welfare reform we argue that the analysis of ideas and discourses may contribute to the understanding of the overall process of welfare reform. This is particularly true where (1) institutional and political change is taking place and (2) where major political actors are changing their political orientations and thus the contents of their interests. " (Author's abstract, IAB-Doku) ((en))

Autorin / Autor

  • Aust, Andreas
  • Arriba, Ana

Bibliografische Daten

Aust, Andreas; Arriba, Ana (2004): Policy reforms and discourses in social assistance in the 1990s: Towards 'activation'? * paper presented to the ESPAnet conference, 9.-11. September 2004, Oxford. (Unidad de Politicas Comparadas. Working paper, 04-11), Madrid, 38 S.