Welfare Systems and Policy Making in Hard Times: A Comparative Analysis

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
CLM.7.03 (Clement House)
Nihan Toprakkiran, University of York, York, United Kingdom
Antonios Roumpakis, University of York, York, United Kingdom
Martin Smith, University of York, York, United Kingdom
The aim of this paper is to comparatively examine trajectories of welfare policy reform in three different welfare systems with particular focus on how institutional features of welfare and domestic politics have shaped welfare responses in ‘hard times’. Austerity has had a major impact on policy and policy making and one area that has been particularly affected has been welfare policy. Following the 2008 financial crisis governments have faced external and internal pressures to retrench in terms of welfare spending which in some cases has seen radical changes in the nature and form of welfare provision. However, it is also the case that different welfare systems have a variety in their welfare policy developments. Using the examples of the United Kingdom (as an established welfare system), Turkey (as a middle income country starting to develop a welfare system) and Greece (as a Southern European welfare system that developed since the 1980s but has felt the full impact of austerity), the paper examines the relationship between the historical and institutional basis of welfare systems and the extent to which the financial crisis represents a ‘critical juncture’ for welfare state policy development and implementation. The paper draws empirical evidence from the responses of policy makers to welfare options and in particular the ways in which the response was shaped rhetorically and in policy terms. The paper continues to explore empirically and comparatively the nature and distributional consequence of policy changes and the opportunities presented by the financial crisis to introduce reforms previously blocked by socio-professional forces. The comparison of these three different cases will demonstrate that policy responses are not simply determined by the impact of austerity but also shaped by the nature of institutional arrangements. Consequently, the spaces for reform may be very different in terms of rethinking the welfare state. The paper builds on detailed empirical research in each of the case study countries.