The early retirement of older workers, and their low labour participation, was not seen as a major problem by the Dutch government during the years of recession in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, with the upswing of the economy and the rapid ageing of the population, the government’s perspective changed drastically and related policy measures were taken. After a general introduction that sketches the shift in the government’s perspective, we give an account of the various pathways to early exit that are used by older workers, and how these have been restricted by policy measures.
With the recent reconstruction of welfare states the social protection of citizens has become more conditional and selective - the basic welfare question of ‘who should get what, and why’ has come to the fore again. To understand the societal legitimation for the new conditionality of welfare it is important to know which deservingness criteria are acknowledged by the public and their relative importance; whether people differ in the degree to which their solidarity with others is conditional, and which groups in society tend to be most or least conditional in their views; and factors that might explain differences in people’s views. Conclusion are drawn through the analysis of existing literature and a public opinion survey carried out in The Netherlands in 1995. The survey responses reveal some clear deservingness criteria and differences in conditionality, which can be linked to three different sets of explanatory variables: socioeconomic and demographic characteristics; opinions on and perceptions of social security and the welfare state; and basic values and attitudes.
Starting from the observation that very little is known about what exactly motivates people to pay for welfare benefits, the article deduces four types of motivation from sociological theories on solidarity: perceived self-interest, moral obligation, empathy and identification with others, and accepted authority. In a national survey among the Dutch adult population in 1995 respondents were asked to what degree the first three motives for contributing to social security apply in their case. The main conclusions are that a large majority of the Dutch are motivated to pay for welfare on several grounds at the same time; the motive of self-interest plays the most important role, followed by moral obligations and then empathy; older people, men and the highest educated are more strongly motivated to contribute to social security, while welfare use and income level only have a modest influence. The main patterns can be understood from the encompassing character of the Dutch social security system, from which (nearly) all Dutch citizens and/or their family members and close friends profit personally.
The Netherlands is no exception to the general European trend towards the activation of unemployed people and may even be seen as one of its forerunners. When Wim Kok, the former Labour prime minister, came to power in 1994 and declared ‘work, work, work’ as the central guiding slogan for his government, he only intensified a general policy aimed at increasing the (re)integration of the unemployed that had already been installed in the 1980s by Ruud Lubbers, his Christian-Democratic predecessor. From the early 1980s onwards, the country had been plagued by high numbers of (long-term) unemployed for nearly 15 years. In recent years, however, unemployment has decreased steadily, at present being back at the low levels of the prosperous early 1970s, and employment has skyrocketed. It is generally believed that Dutch activation policies and wage moderation have contributed significantly to this ‘Dutch miracle’ (Visser and Hemerijck, 1997).
In this chapter Dutch activation measures taken in the field of social security and labour market policies are critically reviewed. On the basis of an initial sketch of developments in Dutch (un)employment over the last three decades, the main trends in social security and labour market policy will be discussed, as well as the most important of the actual activation measures taken. Subsequently the nature and extent of the Dutch success story will be subjected to a critical analysis.
Following the oil crisis of 1973, unemployment increased from about 50,000 to 200,000 in 1975. This number was unacceptable to the then current government. After the second oil crisis, unemployment figures reached an all time high of 800,000 in 1984.
From a sociological perspective the most critical variable for the future of social security lies in its societal legitimacy, that is, the degree to which individual citizens endorse its principles and operations and accept its requirements and outcomes. When post-war welfare states in the Western world began to reach the first stages of maturation sociologists began o express concern about their future in the light of potentially falling popular support as a result of certain political, cultural and structural developments in society. The early concerned prophets included Illich (1973) and Lasch (1978), who worried about the detrimental effects of the increasingly bureaucratic and statist aspects of welfare and social security. From a political economy perspective, Rose and Peters (1978) claimed that support would decline to the degree that wage earners experience a drop in their real disposable income due to economic recession and a rising demand for social protection schemes. The ‘abused taxpayer’ would ultimately refuse to contribute. Crozier et al. (1975) feared the growing ungovernability of the broader welfare state due to ‘rising expectations’, i.e. if democratic processes led to an overload of demands on the government, exceeding its capacity to respond. Wilensky (1975) argued that the new ‘middle mass’, resulting fkom the ongoing differentiation of labour and social life and driven by economic individualism, would object to paying for social welfare, since they felt they would receive fewer or no benefits from it.
This ‘middle mass’ argument is still repeated regularly, e.g. in terms of the ‘comfortable majority’ who is reluctant to extend the welfare secured for itself to the minority of the poor (Galbraith 1992), or in terms of the notion of a ‘one-thirdltwo-thirds society’ (Leisering and Leibftied 1998).
This chapter describes the shift towards the selective targeting of welfare in both Western and Eastern European countries in recent years. It discusses the pros and cons of means testing in relation to the broad aims of social policy: to do away with poverty, social injustice, and dependency, and to integrate all groups and classes into society. The chapter shows that means testing demotivates poor people from trying to be better off, because of the effects of the poverty trap; the high rates of marginal tax to which they are exposed. Means testing also provides major obstacles to social exchange and participation and creates ineffective delivery of social rights, since a substantial non-take-up of benefits is inherent in the system.
Not so long ago mass unemployment seemed to be a universal and typically European problem. From the early 1980s onwards most Western-European countries were plagued by unemployment figures that permanently and by far exceeded those of other industrialised countries, notably the US. Early socioeconomic policies, that tried to stimulate domestic demand, increase international economic competitiveness and redistribute labour, had no clear and lasting positive effects. The idea then took hold that unemployment in Europe was a structural phenomenon strongly connected to the relatively generous welfare systems of European countries and their rigid labour market institutions. This image of ‘Eurosclerosis’ – of European welfare states being caught in structures of inflexibility, preventing the solution of the problem of mass unemployment – contrasted sharply with the image of the liberal US welfare state, where flexible labour markets and low social protection fuelled the jobs machines of its service economy. In more detail, the standard interpretation of the European problem of structural unemployment saw two main causes: the gap between wages and productivity for low-skilled workers, and the inflexibility of and distortions to the smooth functioning of labour markets. Solutions advocated broadly in national and international policy discourses included increasing wage flexibility; increasing productivity levels and employability of workers; flexibilisation of labour contracts and working-time; and changing incentive structures for employers (subsidies, tax credits), but of course also for the unemployed (lower and shorter benefits, stricter work tests, workfare type obligations). At present ideas and dialogues of this kind, based on the standard interpretation of the unemployment problem and asking for a shift from equality and protection to employment, still dominate the work and welfare policy nexus.
It is often argued that European welfare states, with regulated labour markets, relatively generous social protection and relatively high wage equality, have become counter-productive in a globalised and knowledge-intensive economy. Using in-depth, comparative and interdisciplinary analysis of employment, welfare and citizenship in a number of European countries, this book challenges this view.
an overview of employment and unemployment in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century;
a comprehensive critique of the idea of globalisation as a challenge to European welfare states;
detailed country chapters with new and previously inaccessible information about employment and unemployment policies written by national experts.
Europe’s new state of welfare is essential reading for students and teachers of social policy, welfare studies, politics and economics.
This article tests whether state-organised solidarity substitutes social capital and informal solidarity, based on recent data from the European Values Study. At country level, we find that welfare spending has a reinforcing effect on social capital and a negative substitution effect on informal solidarity. At the individual level, there is also evidence for a substitution effect, since informal solidarity is lower among people who live in countries that spend more on social protection. In addition, there is evidence of a ‘national burden’ effect, since informal solidarity is lower among people who live in countries with an older population, with higher unemployment, and with a higher percentage of immigrants.