The Welfare State


How to reform a welfare state so that social and affordable? What is the role of the state in socio-economic inequality? How do the elderly contribute to modern society? Does the breakdown of the welfare state put pressure on individuals, households and businesses to invest time and money? Our researchers in governance studies, philanthropy, methodology and sociology are answering these questions at VU University.

From aftercare to precautionary 'care'

verzorgingsstaat-voorzorgIn the welfare state one has civic rights: if something happens to you, you get compensation. As a form of aftercare you are entitled to benefits and you are financially compensated for the damage so you have a stable livelihood. According to the policy and governance studies professor Willem Trommel this is an ideal we are gradually losing, and it creates a new type of welfare which focuses much more on precautionary care. "If someone does not invest enough in his education, he’ll be unemployed sometime. The government will increasingly take measures to ensure that people do their best to educate themselves as to avoid later unemployment", Trommel states in the interview 'The Governmental trauma of modernization'. His research at the Department of Governance studies focuses on the welfare state and is part of the research programme New Public Governance.

The Golden Age of Philanthropy

verzorgingsstaat-filantropieBecause of increasing wealth and the aging of the population, the next decades will feature the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history: the "Golden Age of Philanthropy". Part of that capital will go to charities with a public interest focus. Governments and managers do however not optimally make use of the potential. Based on an examination by the working group Philanthropic Studies Professor Theo Schuyt argues  that a combination of the state, market and philanthropy fields can keep  the welfare state alive. The government guarantees a certain level of social security, and the financial market and philanthropy will ensure dynamism and variety. A society will be a collective system of social security, education and health matters, and in which more space is created for citizenship and the involvement of civil society and businesses. The studies of the working group Philanthropic Studies is bundled in the research programme Philanthropy and volunteering in a 'civil society'.

Unemployment is worse for women than men

verzorgingsstaat-werkloosheidDr. Irma Mooi-Reçi of the Department of Sociology examines as a part of the research programme Social Inequality and the Life Course what the influence is of (temporary) unemployment at the career labour and wages of employees. Her studies show that long-term unemployment has negative effects on wages for both men and women. These effects are stronger and last longer for women with children over twelve years of age. For women, these effects are attributed due to their aging knowledge, while men mostly suffer from the stigma of lingering unemployment.
Dr. Mooi-Reçi’s research also shows that the tightening and foreshortening of unemployment benefits  has a somewhat more negative impact for women than for men. Particularly at times of policy tightening, women tend to accept jobs below their skill level. This has prolonged adverse effects on their careers and wages, which leads to the conclusion that the stricter rules for the unemployment  benefits induce gender differences at work. Mooi-Reçi also discovered that the negative effects of unemployment worsen in times of economic stress because there is more competition in the job market.

You’ll take risks when you’re about to lose

Why do some governments get away with proposals that cost votes and other governments do not? This question is central to the Veni project of Dr. Barbara Vis. She argues that this has to do with the risk that politicians are willing to take: governments dare to take risks to reform the welfare state only when they are already on socio-economic and/or electoral defeat. This finding is based on a new theoretical perspective in psychology: prospect theory. According to this theory, people adjust their behavior to the situation (of profit or loss) in which they reside. The context in which governments are located (electoral loss or gain) influences their attitude to risk and hence the degree of reforms. Under poor socioeconomic conditions and in times of political loss, governments accept the electoral risk of unpopular reforms.  In times of political profit they will not take these risks. The research is part of the research programme of Political Science: Multi-layered governance in Europe and beyond.

Waste as source of income in Indonesia

DThe welfare state is strongly associated with Europe, but governments of countries in the Global South also feel responsible for the welfare of their citizens. Many public functions in that region are privatized, not because of ideology or belief but because of lack of government resources. Dr. Freek Colombijn of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology investigates one such link between public and private actors: the collection of waste in cities in Indonesia. Residents put money together to hire a dirt collector who’ll dispose of the waste at a temporary dumping site. In these areas the  collectors sort the waste and sell what is recyclable. The municipal government then transports the waste to the final dump site outside the city, where hundreds of people further sort the waste and sell the reusable items.
The system functions well if one takes into account that much waste is recycled. Waste is not a rest product but an economic resource. This situation raises questions on how the municipal system connects to the private initiatives. Another question is whether the rising incomes in the emerging economy of Indonesia, will hinder people’s willingness to sort waste. The hypothesis is that economic growth will lead to more waste on one hand and to a smaller willingness to sort household waste on the other. Economic growth can also lead to Western or Islamic inspired environmentalism. The research is part of the CONSEC-programma of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology.