Project

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The redesigning of the internal boundaries of western European welfare states

Applicant Bonoli Giuliano
Number 126528
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution IDHEAP University of Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.04.2010 - 31.03.2013
Approved amount 209'386.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Political science
Sociology

Keywords (7)

welfare state; interagency collaboration; social policy coordination; social security; activation; coordination; social governance

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Over the last decade, the institutional fragmentation of social security systems for working age people has emerged as a key policy problem in a majority of OECD countries. Welfare states were built over long periods of time, and consist in the juxtaposition of schemes catering for groups of beneficiaries defined by the cause of joblessness (unemployment, invalidity, sickness, long term unemployment). Increasingly, these internal divisions of western welfare states are considered as inadequate and highly inefficient. They are held responsible for a range of problems, including excessive complexity, inequities, cost shifting between agencies, difficulties in establishing interagency collaboration, cultural clashes between different actors, and so forth. Faced with fragmentation problems, most OECD countries have responded with what we call "coordination initiatives". These range from the adoption of collaboration procedures that should be applied by the relevant agencies (Switzerland), to more drastic measures such as the merging of social and unemployment assistance in Germany or the merging of social security and social assistance (Norway). These initiatives have generally to overcome substantial resistance, coming from various sources such as entrenched interests, bureaucratic inertia and joint decisions traps. The result is that in most cases, responses to the fragmentation problem are highly politicised and treacherous political exercises.Against this background, the objective of this project is to study how western European countries are responding to problems generated by the internal fragmentation of their welfare states. In particular, the project will aim at identifying the determinants of the responses adopted. Its theoretical underpinnings are found in the political science literature on institutional stability and change. Empirically, the project relies on a cross-national comparison (four OECD countries, i.e Germany, the UK, Switzerland and France or the Netherlands) and on a cross-cantonal comparison within Switzerland.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Institutional fragmentation and coordination initiatives in western European welfare states
Champion C, Bonoli G (2011), Institutional fragmentation and coordination initiatives in western European welfare states, in JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN SOCIAL POLICY, 21(4), 323-334.
Frammentazione istitutzionale e iniziative di coordinamento nei sistemi di welfare dell’Europa occidentale
Champion Cyrielle, Bonoli Giuliano (2010), Frammentazione istitutzionale e iniziative di coordinamento nei sistemi di welfare dell’Europa occidentale, in Rivista italiana delle politiche sociali, 1, 169-188.
Switzerland : A Latecomer Catching up ?
Champion Cyrielle (2010), Switzerland : A Latecomer Catching up ?, in Daniel Clegg, Jochen Clasen (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 121-141.
L’administration des politiques sociales : Le système suisse de sécurité sociale pour les personnes en âge de travailler
Champion Cyrielle, Bonoli Giuliano, L’administration des politiques sociales : Le système suisse de sécurité sociale pour les personnes en âge de travailler, in Ladner A. et al. (ed.).
La réinsertion professionnelle des bénéficiares de l'aide sociale en Suisse et en Allemagne
Bonoli Giuliano, Champion Cyrielle, La réinsertion professionnelle des bénéficiares de l'aide sociale en Suisse et en Allemagne.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Integrated Employment and Activation Policies in a Multilevel Welfare System”, EU 7th framework Research network LOCALISE 31.08.2012 Milan
4th ECPR Graduate Conference 04.07.2012 Bremen
RECWOWE final conference 15.06.2011 Brussles, Belgium
6th RECWOWE doctoral workshop, Adapting European welfare states to the emergence of new social risks 12.05.2011 Lausanne


Knowledge transfer events



Self-organised

Title Date Place
Organisation of one half-day on the coordination of social security schemes in the IDHEAP seminar “Politique de l’emploi et reinsertion professionnelle”. 04.10.2011 Lausanne

Abstract

Over the last decade, the institutional fragmentation of social security systems for working age people has emerged as a key policy problem in a majority of OECD countries. Welfare states were built over long periods of time, and consist in the juxtaposition of schemes catering for groups of beneficiaries defined by the cause of joblessness (unemployment, invalidity, sickness, long term unemployment). Increasingly, these internal divisions of western welfare states are considered as inadequate and highly inefficient. They are held responsible for a range of problems, including excessive complexity, inequities, cost shifting between agencies, difficulties in establishing interagency collaboration, cultural clashes between different actors, and so forth. There are various reasons why internal fragmentation is now considered problematic. First, since the 1990s, in a majority of OECD countries welfare states are being reoriented towards activation. In this context, the internal fragmentation constitutes an obstacle to the objective of putting jobless people back into employment. In fragmented systems, individuals hit by more than one risk (the so called “grey area” clients) may be shuffled across agencies for long periods, during which their employability further declines. In addition, not all agencies have the capacity to set up activation programmes, and are forced to rely on other ones. Second, the diffusion of new public management techniques has arguably improved the efficiency of individual agencies but may at the same time have created coordination problems. In fact, agencies subjected to quantitative targets, benchmarking and so forth, are likely to develop a more “selfish” behaviour, caring most about their performance indicators and possibly less about the coherent functioning of multi-agency based systems. It is in this way that new public management may have exacerbated coordination problems. Faced with fragmentation problems, most OECD countries have responded with what we call “coordination initiatives”. These range from the adoption of collaboration procedures that should be applied by the relevant agencies (Switzerland), to more drastic measures such as the merging of social and unemployment assistance in Germany (Hartz IV) or the merging of social security and social assistance (Norway). These initiatives have generally to overcome substantial resistance, coming from various sources such as entrenched interests, bureaucratic inertia and joint decisions traps. The result is that in most cases, responses to the fragmentation problem are highly politicised and treacherous political exercises.Against this background, the objective of this project is to study how western European countries are responding to problems generated by the internal fragmentation of their welfare states. In particular, the project will aim at identifying the determinants of the responses adopted. Its theoretical underpinnings are found in the political science literature on institutional stability and change. Empirically, the project relies on a cross-national comparison (OECD countries) and on a cross-cantonal comparison within Switzerland.
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