Welfare states and public services

By altering workplace power relationships and employers’ incentives, minimum wage laws help ensure social equality

Egalitarian liberals have long been sceptical about a minimum wage, arguing that taxation and transfer programs are better at ensuring distributive justice. But even if we accept the claim that the minimum wage increases unemployment, there are grounds for the minimum wage on the basis of justice. Brishen Rogers argues that it helps reduce work-based class and status divisions. Labour […]

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Southern Europe should consider an economic ‘third way’ to tackle unemployment and inequality

Several countries across Europe have experienced persistent problems with unemployment since the start of the financial crisis. Alexandre Afonso writes that southern European countries are faced with a choice between adopting either Anglo-Saxon style market liberalisation or Nordic style welfare spending as part of their response to the problem. Seeing neither as a feasible option, he proposes an alternative strategy […]

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Trade unions’ collective bargaining efforts have serious implications for social and economic equality in European countries

The role of trade unions in promoting social justice has been challenged by rising social and economic inequality in several European countries. Angie Gago writes that while levels of inequality vary from country to country, the general rise in inequality experienced across Europe is associated with a change in the redistributive character of trade unions’ collective bargaining. She argues that […]

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National identity is an ineffective tool for building public support for wealth redistribution among diverse populations

Providing the resources of the welfare state to increasingly diverse populations has been a controversial issue in several European countries, notably in the UK where the government has advocated restricting EU immigrants’ access to the benefits system. Matthew Wright and Tim Reeskens analyse the effectiveness of national identity as a tool to promote social cohesion in Europe. They argue that […]

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Negative portrayals of welfare recipients in the UK press are in contrast to the positive stories which dominate Swedish and Danish mass media

Portrayals of welfare recipients in the mass media have the potential to influence the way in which audiences think about them. Christian Albrekt Larsen uses a large sample of newspaper articles from the UK, Denmark and Sweden to analyse the positive and negative portrayals of the poor and welfare recipients in the press. He argues that the level of poverty […]

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We live in a world where social class is strongly inherited

Findings from a recent study by Neil Cummins and a colleague suggest that social mobility in modern day England is little greater than in pre-industrial times. Using surnames, they show that intergenerational correlation in status is close to .85, meaning that the progeny of the rich and poor will take over 20 generations, or 600 years, to converge to the […]

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The doctrine of ‘hard working’ is the worst kind of religion

Mary Evans explores the outbreak of rhetoric about ‘hard work’ and argues that it has two functions. First, it serves to make the performer of that task a better person, whilst at the same time legitimating vicious policies towards those who are not ‘hard working’; and second, in framing that latter category as the ‘thieves of the rewards of the […]

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Setting time limits on unemployment benefits make the long-term unemployed five times more likely to find jobs

Rising unemployment and long-term unemployment have become increasing concerns for Europe’s policymakers since the onset of the financial crisis five years ago. One option for governments is to shorten the duration of unemployment benefits. Using evidence from Denmark, Stéphanie Vincent Lyk-Jensen and Cecilie Dohlmann Weatherall find that if benefits for the long-term unemployed are limited to four years instead of […]

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Spanish trade unions must change with the times if they are to offer a coherent voice against austerity policies.

What role should trade unions play in opposing austerity policies? Angie Gago writes on the pressures facing Spanish trade unions since the start of the economic crisis. She notes that trade unions were already in a state of decline prior to 2008, and that many of the individuals worst hit by the crisis, such as young people and the unemployed, […]

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The most vulnerable ‘NEETs’ in Spain tend to come from families with the lowest levels of education.

A number of policies aimed at tackling the problem of ‘NEETs’ (young people who are not in education, employment, or training) have been implemented throughout Europe. Miquel Àngel Alegre and Federico Todeschini assess the extent of the problem in Spain. They argue that as NEETs are a highly diverse group, it is useful to make a distinction between ‘vulnerable’ and […]

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The diversity of abortion rights in some Muslim-majority countries are a starting point in encouraging liberalisation in other countries

A lack of access to safe abortions is a major cause of maternal mortality across the world. Looking at Islamic sources and relevant literature, Gilla Shapiro investigates the Islamic discourse and the diversity of laws across Muslim-majority countries. She finds that the remarkable variability is largely dependent on the point of gestational development and the grounds for abortion. For more […]

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The DGB’s proposals for a new ‘Marshall Plan’ for Europe may mark the beginning of a discussion on the concrete alternatives to austerity.

For nearly five years, austerity has been touted as the only way to tackle the effects of the Eurozone’s financial crisis. Steve Coulter profiles a new initiative from the German trade union confederation, the Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund, which aims to leverage Europe’s idle private capital via a ‘European Future Fund’. This fund would focus on green investment, as well as training, […]

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The rise of foodbanks in Germany is increasing the commodification of poverty without addressing its structural causes

The past two decades have seen a massive rise in the number of foodbanks in Germany, often linked to the country’s welfare reforms. But what are the consequences of foodbanks, beyond simply helping those in need? Stefan Selke argues that the foodbank movement is in fact a backwards-looking policy that sees the solution to social problems in local neighbourhoods, and […]

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Raising capital taxes and investing in social protection and education may reduce income polarisation in Europe.

Rising income polarisation and inequality in Europe has been of concern to governments and policymakers since before the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008. Using survey data from over 300,000 EU households, Mario Holzner examines how government policies can affect levels of income polarisation  for the rich and poor. He finds that higher progressive labour and capital taxes are […]

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The decline in UK immigration is exaggerated and signals a broader crisis in society and the economy

Hein de Haas examines what is behind the decrease in immigration to the UK and finds that politicians have overstated the impact they have had. A large part of it may be explained by reasons other than the government’s tough rules, such as the poor performance of the UK’s economy, wage levels, and labour demand. Student migration, which explains most of […]

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The greater market integration of the European Higher Education Area may have unequal benefits across countries and disciplines.

Since the late 1990s, European higher education has moved towards greater integration, increasing student mobility and more comparable national systems. The past two decades have also seen a gradual rise in the role of market elements in higher education. Pedro Teixeira finds that this greater integration may be leading to a greater concentration of funding across certain countries and academic […]

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Training the unemployed: Much ado about nothing?

A number of ideas have been put forward to help tackle youth unemployment in Europe. Bob Hancké takes a closer look at the issue, arguing that while training is never a bad thing, bringing unemployment down is not a substitute for growth. Only in Spain, perhaps, where an entire generation has succumbed to the temptation of higher wages in unskilled […]

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National health services tend to be introduced by countries with social democratic governments that also have a concentration of political power.

Why do different countries have different healthcare systems? Federico Toth looks at the three major types of healthcare systems in industrialised countries: voluntary insurance, social health insurance, and national health services (NHS). Using evidence from 15 countries, he argues that those countries with left-leaning governments tend to institute an NHS, while those who are right leaning or authoritarian tend to […]

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Book Review: The Activation of Citizenship in Europe

In the past decade, welfare systems in Europe have experienced significant reforms, moving away from the idea of simple welfare compensation to greater investment in citizens’ social capital. This book looks at how this ‘social citizenship’ can be activated in national and European contexts by reinforcing political participation. Paulina Tambakaki finds that the book provides insights into welfare modernisation across […]

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Immigrant children in schools have a near-zero effect on the educational achievement of native born children.

In a time of austerity and rising unemployment across Europe, immigration has become an increasingly hot topic. One concern, frequently brought up by the media is that the presence of immigrant children in schools may reduce the educational outcomes of native children. Using data from the Netherlands, Asako Ohinata and Jan C. van Ours have taken an in-depth look at […]

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