The Changing Linkage of Family Members in Welfare Institutions

Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
CLM.7.03 (Clement House)
Patricia Frericks, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany
Julia Höppner, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany
Ralf Och, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Nicola Schwindt, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany
The changing linkage of family members in welfare institutions

Patricia Frericks, Julia Höppner, Ralf Och, Nicola Schwindt

Since the 1990s, welfare states have partly substituted specific institutional regulation principles that previously constituted the historically developed societal order including the role division of the welfare state and the family, and the conceptualization of social citizenship. Principles of family solidarity and the male breadwinner model eroded. Moreover, in line with so-called activation and social investment policies principles of “self-responsibility”, “dual career couples” and an “adult worker model” the individual has gained importance in welfare institutions and the meaning of familial relations for social protection has been reduced. This development can be observed for various policies.

However, as we will show there is no linear development of welfare institutional change towards individualization. On the contrary, depending on the country, the policy field, and the level of social protection there are many welfare institutions that rely on family bonds as a spouse, partner, child, parent or other family member. Even more so, policy measures were introduced that increase the meaning of family in social protection. These contradictory developments, the strengthening of the individual and the family in social protection systems, have an impact on redistribution, social rights and social inequalities. Systematic analysis and comparison, however, is lacking. Therefore, we ask in how far European social security systems conceptualize the social citizen as an individual or as a family member. In accordance with neo-institutional arguments we assume that single institutions within welfare states develop in parts contradictory.

In our paper, we analyze two fields of social protection, old age and unemployment, of 10 European countries to identify the degree of insitutional individualization, which is the extent to which social citizens are being constructed as individuals or as family members, and in how far this construction is changing. To do so, we develop a typology to grasp national regulative data on social protection and compare European social security systems with regard to links between family members. Our paper aims to contribute to the debate on whether welfare states converge in that they develop in accordance with the assumption of individualization. We therefore analyse individualisation at three points in time: before the main welfare reforms started (beginning 1990s), at the peak of first important reforms (beginning 2000s) and current welfare regulations since some reform measures were subject to new reforms and draw backs. The degree of individualization will be analyzed separately for the institutions framing the target social security level as well as for those framing poverty prevention since it is assumed that the institutions tend to contradict one another to some extent in this respect.

Our findings show that in both policy fields the social citizen is constructed as a family member to some degree in all countries and that this construction changes over time. Differences do not correspond systematically to classifications of major regime typologies. The degree of individualization varies between countries, policy fields, social security levels and the family dimensions inducing some surprising results.