WELFAREPRIORITIES is a project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) running from September 2017 to August 2022. The goal of the project is to rethink social policy conflict. In times of austerity, the politics of the welfare state involve tough choices and even trade-offs: whose risks should benefit from social solidarity in a context of shrinking resources? Should the welfare state prioritize the needs of the elderly or those of the young? Those of people in the workforce or outside of the workforce? Of natives or of immigrants?
How countries answer these key questions depends on the welfare state priorities of citizens, political elites and economic elites. However, we know still very little about these priorities and their determinants, and we know even less about the mechanisms that foster support for social solidarity – i.e. support for inclusive social security beyond self-interest. This project wants to make use of recent methodological advances to investigate precisely these priorities and mechanisms.
The project will have two phases: the goal of the first phase is to identify the most salient distributive conflicts and welfare trade-offs in eight European countries. It includes an original data collection on social policy priorities among citizens, politicians, employers and trade unions (based on conjoint survey and interviews), as well as content analysis of the actual welfare politics in these countries.
The second phase builds on the findings of the first phase, but its objective is to go beyond conflict, towards coalitions. It will again combine conjoint surveys and content analysis to identify the factors that foster support for social policies among those social groups who are unlikely to benefit directly from these policies.
The project is supposed to break new theoretical and methodological ground in comparative welfare state research. It conceptualizes and studies both the trade-offs and the potentials for coalitions, which will determine the fate of the European welfare state in the 21st century.
This project will assess the political conditions for the development of social investment policies, investigate the politics of Social Investment in Europe, Latin America and East Asia along the following three questions:
- What explains the content of the social investment agenda? (empirically: identify framing and the effect of institutional legacies – constraints, economic strategy- on the social investment agenda in different regions of the world)
- How does political conflict over social investment map onto other conflict lines and cleavages? (empirically: identify actor positions, dimensionality, links between actor positions on different issues).
- What political coalitions support or prevent a social investment turn ? (empirically: identify reform coalitions and the institutional and structural conditions that produce them)
This project asks how the fundamental reconfiguration of political competition in Europe’s party systems affects welfare politics. By electoral realignment, the project means the emergence of polarized party-political competition between proponents of universalism and internationalism on the one hand, as well as particularism and nationalism on the other hand. While this divide has been amply studied in electoral studies, its significance for welfare politics is still very much unknown. In most European countries, the nationalist-conservative pole of this conflict is articulated by a (new) radical right party. On the universalist-internationalist pole, however, things are more complicated. In some countries, social democratic parties articulate this stance, but in others, they compete with culturally liberal parties such as the greens. Everywhere, however, the new configuration of political competition confronts social democratic parties with important trade-offs and challenges, which is why the project takes a particular interest in these parties. The programmatic strategies social democratic parties choose will not only alter their electoral fate, but also – fundamentally – welfare politics. This larger book project builds on and integrates a number of already published outputs (Häusermann and Kriesi 2015, Gingrich and Häusermann 2015, Häusermann 2018).
Under what conditions can welfare states be reformed? More specifically: how can established social policy programmes be adapted to changing demographic, economic and social constraints? These are the key questions in today’s welfare state politics, and they have consequently become the key questions in political science research on the welfare state. In this research project, we made use of the exceptional conjunction of theoretical advances in the relevant literature, methodological innovation in public opinion research and the unfolding of the most ambitious and encompassing pension reform in Switzerland in decades to provide answers to precisely these questions
With regard to the literature on welfare state reforms, one of the key insights of research over the past decade has been that welfare politics are multidimensional. This means that individuals are not just “in favor or against social policy”, but they hold specific preferences for different aspects of social policy. One major difficulty – for researchers as well as policy-makers – is, however, that the relative importance that individuals or social groups attribute to these different dimensions is almost impossible to observe reliably in standard survey analysis. Conjoint analysis is an experimental survey method that allows to measure whether changes in the composition of a reform package lead to sizeable shifts in support among the public as a whole, or among specific groups. The Swiss pension reform “Altersvorsorge 2020” was an ambitious attempt at reforming the entire system of old age income protection. It therefore provided the perfect opportunity to combine the insights in welfare state theory regarding multidimensionality with conjoint analysis. We conducted a panel study which accompanied the political reform process.
This research project analysed European parties’ policy strategies during the recent economic crisis. The crisis puts into question whether political parties are still able to provide voters with meaningful democratic choices. This research project first investigated whether we find convergence or polarisation of parties’ policy offerings with regard to macroeconomic policy, and second, it analysed parties’ responsiveness to their voters’ demands. More specifically, we proposed to study two aspects of parties’ policy strategies: the issues they emphasise and their macroeconomic policy positions shortly before and during the crisis. The research draws on a variety of different data sources from 25 European countries in the time period between 2005 and 2012.
This project was concerned with the political reactions of European citizens to the financial disaster and the harsh economic consequences that hit them from the late 2008 onwards. Starting from a political economy perspective, we asked how European citizens reacted towards the crisis and what implications these individual reactions had for the variation of protests at the societal level. By integrating previously separate research on social movements, economic voting and social risks, we offered an encompassing analytical argument to explain the variation in protest reactions across Europe.
This project dealt with the electoral transformations of political parties in advanced post-industrial democracies and investigates the consequences of electoral change on distributive politics. It linked recent research on the transformation of party systems and party competition with current theory and research on institutional change. We worked on the dualization of labor markets and welfare states in Western democracies. We wanted to know to what extent, why and with which political and electoral consequences post-industrial societies become more and more divided in insiders and outsiders. Work in this project is situated in two institutional contexts:
a) The project was linked the the EU Network of Excellence „Reconciling Work and Welfare RECWOWE“. From the collaborative research in this project, we published the book „The Age of Dualization. The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies“ (2012, OUP). I am a co-editor, together with Profs. Patrick Emmenegger, Bruno Palier and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser. The book shows that dualization of labor markets and societies is not a mere structural trend, but rather the result of political decisions.
b) On dualization, I also worked with Hanna Schwander (University of Bremen) and Thomas Kurer (UZH), on the SNF-project „Who is in and who is out? The political representation of insiders and outsiders in Western Europe“ of which I am the main applicant (2011-2013, Grant number 100017_131994; 138’800.- CHF).
This project dealt with the electoral transformations of political parties in advanced post-industrial democracies and investigates the consequences of electoral change on distributive politics. It linked recent research on the transformation of party systems and party competition with current theory and research on institutional change.
We worked on the dualization of labor markets and welfare states in Western democracies. We wanted to know to what extent, why and with which political and electoral consequences post-industrial societies become more and more divided in insiders and outsiders. Work in this project is situated in two institutional contexts: