Towards productive welfare? A comparative analysis of welfare state effort in 18 OECD countries

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The 10th Australian Social Policy Conference : Social Policy through the Life Course : Building Community Capacity and Social Resilience

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Social Policy Research Centre; University of New South Wales


Welfare state typologies, fuzzy set ideal type analysis, productive welfare, productification


Numerous social policy analysts have suggested that globalisation and the emergence of more knowledge based economies have encouraged high income nations to shift away from a model of protective welfare focused on social rights and towards a model of productive welfare focused on social investment. However, much of the work in this area remains purely theoretical, not least because comparative social policy research has tended to focus on the measurement of social protection rather than social investment. Indeed, almost 20 years after its publication, Esping-Andersen’s classification of welfare regimes - largely on the basis of social rights as measured by his decommodification index - still dominates the field. In this paper we explore the possibility of developing a complementary classification of welfare state types that incorporates both productive and protective elements of social policy. Using fuzzy set ideal type analysis, we explore data for a sample of 23 OECD countries in three time periods: 1994, 1998 and 2003. Our findings provide no more than very modest support for claims that welfare states are shifting from protective to productive modes of provision and, in many cases, we identify a shift in the alternative direction. In addition, we identify some nations that are clearly productive in their focus and others that manage to combine productive and protective features.

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Recommended Citation

Hudson, J., & Kühner, S. (2007, July). Towards productive welfare? A comparative analysis of welfare state effort in 18 OECD countries. Paper presented at the 10th Australian Social Policy Conference: Social Policy through the Life Course: Building Community Capacity and Social Resilience, New South Wales. Retrieved from https://www.aspc.unsw.edu.au/sites/www.aspc.unsw.edu.au/files/uploads/aspc_historical_conferences/2007/hudson_197.pdf