A Long Goodbye to Bismarck?: The Politics of Welfare Reform in Continental Europe (Changing Welfare States)
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A Long Goodbye to Bismarck? is the first study to provide an exhaustive comparative account of all welfare reforms in continental Europe during the past three decades, covering Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland.
funding. The share of total social spending that is financed out of contributions has decreased from 65.7 percent in 1991 to less than 60 percent since 2003 (BMAS 2008b: 12). This is largely the result of more tax money being infused into the social insurance schemes. To that end, indirect taxes have been increased (VAT and tobacco tax) or newly introduced (ecology tax). The shift in financing has gone farthest in the public pension scheme. In 2007, payments out of the federal budget (including
with laid-off second earners. In response to these multiple dysfunctions, Belgium’s unemployment insurance system started to undergo a radical transformation, evolving from a social insurance system in the classic Bismarckian mold into a minimum income protection system, with the financing and governance dimension of the system remaining distinctively ‘Bismarckian’. That is to say, benefit levels became far more of a function of assumed need rather than past wages and contributions, but
effectively offered a bail-out to the social partners to EXPLAINING WITHIN REGIME POLICY DIVERGENCE continue in their old ways, i.e. seeking short-term (wage) gains for their membership. Institutionally, beyond the general image of Belgium and the Netherlands as coalition polities and corporatist political economies, Belgium and the Netherlands are worlds apart. Belgium, unlike the Netherlands, is characterized by major and deep-cutting internal divisions along ethnic/linguistic and
religious/ideological lines. These multiple, intersecting divisions have resulted in a far more fragmented, complex and conflictridden political system than the Netherlands. Linguistic conflict took up and effectively depleted political time and energy in Belgium at a time when economic and social policy took center stage in the Netherlands. The unions have remained unitary in name, but in reality major divisions have always existed between the Flemish and French-speaking wings. Whereas
autonomous regions enjoy their own health care system today. This was coupled with a new agreement on regional financing and a new statute for health professionals. In 2003, a law on Cohesion and Quality was passed aiming at securing territorial equity and quality levels in the provision of health care. REFORMING SOCIAL PROTECTION IN THE LAST THREE DECADES Family Policies: Towards Reconciliation Family care policies did not undergo major change during the 1990s, but rather modest