Lay summary
The objective of this project is to identify the factors and the mechanisms that account for the development of policies that provide coverage against new social risks (NSR) in advanced welfare states.

NSR are understood as individual level welfare losses associated with the socio-economic transformations that have brought postindustrial societies into existence: deindustrialisation, the massive entry of women into the labour force, increased family instability and the destandardisation of employment. New social risks include long-term unemployment, being a working poor, being a single parent, facing difficulties in reconciling work and family life, and having insufficient social security coverage (see the “Detailed research plan” below for a more detailed definition).

The welfare states that are currently in place in most western countries were built during the postwar years and did not, in general, pay much attention to these contingencies that were rather marginal or virtually inexistent at the time. Postwar welfare state focused their efforts on the protection of the income of core workers (the typical male breadwinner), through employment protection, and through social insurance against unemployment, invalidity sickness and old age. As a result of socio-economic change, welfare states are now under pressure to develop policies that respond to demands for better NSR coverage, such as active labour market policies, childcare services, or pensions systems that are suitable for atypical career patterns. Such reorientation of western welfare states, however, has progressed at a different pace in different countries. Broadly speaking, the Nordic countries have gone furthest in adapting their welfare states to emerging new social risks. Continental and English speaking countries have been somewhat slower, and Southern European countries are clearly lagging behind.

This project intends to study this particular aspect of the broader process of welfare state adaptation, and in particular it aims to account for impressive levels of cross-national variation in relation to the degree of development of NSR polices. The research design is comparative and is based on three steps. First the project will document international variation with regard to the extent to which NSR are currently covered by western welfare states; second, it will examine in depth the process of policy making in selected fields of NSR policy in a small sample of countries; and third, it will look for the key explanatory factors of the observed pattern of variation on the basis of statistical analysis.