Description Parallel Stream Session C.1

Description Parallel Stream Session C.1

Parallel Stream Session C (14:30-15:45)
Stream C.1 The welfare state and social justice.

Monique Kremer (University of Amsterdam/WRR) and Frank Vandenbroucke (University of Amsterdam/ University of Antwerp).

Everybody would agree that welfare states should be ‘inclusive’. Does that aspiration require more universalism or more selectivity in the development of social policies? If it has ever been away, this old question is surely back on our agenda. It has often been asserted that universalism, providing adequate social services and benefits for all citizens including the better-off, sustains public support for the welfare state, and, thus, solidarity among citizens. However, the opposite argument exists too: if universalism leads to an expensive welfare state which, despite high levels of spending, cannot give sufficient attention to the needs of the most disadvantaged citizens, the welfare state’s legitimacy will suffer, also in the eyes of the better-off. This debate is as old as the European welfare state: in the real world of European welfare states, we observe different mixes of universalism and selectivity, and in the academic debate conflicting positions have been taken, based both on an array of empirical observations and on different understandings of the sources of public legitimacy.

We do not think there is a binary choice between ‘universalism’ and ‘selectivity’, and, for the purpose of this call, we do not want to equate ‘selectivity’ to ‘means-testing’ (which is but one way to organize selectivity). We would also not exclude that different mixes of universalism and selectivity might be appropriate for different domains of social policy. However, notwithstanding these nuances, the tension between a more universalist approach and selective approaches is gaining salience again in the general policy debate, for at least two reasons. First, the notion that ‘the middle class’ is being squeezed and/or experiences deteriorating living conditions, triggers the question whether social policies should not, at least in some countries, be reoriented towards support for ‘the middle class’, even if that implies less focus on, say, low income groups or low-skilled groups. Second, there is growing political debate about access to social benefits and services for migrants. That debate refers both to the rights and duties of mobile EU citizens and, with different emphases, to the rights and duties of third-country nationals. Ultimately, it is also a debate about selectivity, although the understanding of what ‘selectivity’ means and what purpose it should serve might be different.

The workshop’s aim is to bring together empirical and theoretical research that can contribute to a nuanced understanding of the relationship between universalism and selectivity in various domains of social policy. The emphasis can be on social outcomes, on the actual political economy of contemporary welfare states, or on normative claims which the authors want to support by reasoned argument. The papers can refer to recent policy debates and/or shed light on (historical) practices in existing welfare states. We would like the workshop to have a broad scope in its take on the functions of the welfare state, and we therefore welcome papers with regard to all components of contemporary welfare states, from cash social benefits to childcare, health care and elderly care.