What were factors in the development of the following welfare systems and what are its most important characteristics? France, Germany, Sweden, Britain.
France went through 3 stages: it was a monarchy, after that there was a revolution and even later Catholicism occurred. In 1850 the Catholic government and the post-revolutionary government shared some same ideas and they decided to cooperate in one government who would organise a welfare state for France. These two organisations wanted to strengthen the national feeling and therefore create France as a family. Therefore, people had to give something to the government to get something back → everything to help the family.
France as a welfare stated is considered a bit static, but in practice, it is loose, because of the flexible central organisation.
The features of the French welfare state:
- Pension system (the employer and employee both contribute to a retirement fund)
- Family insurance system (families receive money for children until they are 16, unless they are still on school. For disabled people the state keeps giving money through taxes)
- Education system (the government supplies materials to maintain a high level of education)
- Unemployment insurance (there are different rules for people who can still work and people who cannot work. The people who can work receive 35% of their income they had before when they were still working)
After the second world war, the two political parties (Christian Democratic-led and Social Democratic party) wanted to have a welfare state, also in Germany. Germany was governed socially. Instead of getting national minimum standards for all of its citizens, the social state consisted of a wide range or work-oriented social insurance schemes that contained strong elements of compulsory self-help. The purpose of this type of system was to provide the working people security and therefore protecting their status in their work.
The German government had two main goals to achieve this welfare state:
- Security for all its citizens
- predictability in economic development outcomes
To be able to achieve this goals, the Labour party and Capital party had to make a compromise together. They agreed to compromise in limiting the movement of capital across boarders nationally, to create institutions/frameworks to work out differences between Labour and Capital in order to prevent a breakdown in their relationship and they agreed to Institutional Self-Regulation. This means that people (head of an organisation) could make their own rules without the government interfering. Also, the government highly invested in education, to minimalize the amount of uneducated workers. Therefore, the wages could be high, and the government could give the ones who were disabled, or old money through taxes.
There are four features to the German Welfare Model:
- the Social solidarity insurance model where different funds support one another (cross-subsidisations)
- economic governance intended to reduce labour costs, provide for a high-skills labour force, and absorb surplus workers (early retirement, longer vacations, shorter work weeks)
- a low-skilled workforce in occupations Germans are reluctant to pursue (usually serviced by migrant workers)
- under-developed social assistance schemes for those who fall through the cracks of the social insurance model
The welfare state in Sweden was an idea of the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SDP). This party was founded in 1889. This party was formed by industrial workers, and it was against the violence in Russia. Therefore, the country wanted to be a democracy. The SDP aimed at building a system that would provide workers with health insurance, old-age pensions, protection from unemployment, and other social benefits financed by taxes on workers and employers. At first they only aimed at the workers, because they had more rights, but later on they also focussed on everybody in Sweden, so also the people who did not have the chance to get education, or the people who are disabled. The businesses in Sweden belong to the private owners, so the government has almost nothing to say about the businesses in its land. However, from 1938, the government set some standard wages for the workers in the businesses, so that the income between citizens would be divided more equally.
The Swedish welfare state succeeded for two reasons:
- the economy grew fast in Sweden
- Sweden was not engaged in the Second World War, and therefore did not have the recovery like the other European countries
The features of the Swedish welfare state are:
- The right of health care
- Family services
- Old-age pensions
- Any other social benefits regardless of income
Britain became a welfare state officially when it was recovering from the Second World War. This was a result after the Labour party won the election in 1945. This party was introducing a welfare state. The National Insurance Act was signed in 1946, and in 1948 the National Health System was introduced. In the United Kingdom, the basic idea of the British Welfare State has been articulated as the desire to care for all people resident in the United Kingdom "from the cradle to the grave". The social feeling was that it was better to give something away from your own wealth to maintain a wealthy state in general. This is because people think they are happier when nobody in their surrounding suffers from illness, poverty or hunger. The welfare state had success because it was supported by this idea.
The features of the welfare state of Britain:
- Unemployment benefit
- Sickness benefit
- Old-age pensions
- Widow pensions
By comparing the social system across countries, analyse how the following important social benefits are provided in the above country cases: >>> health care, unemployment, old age pension, family (or child) assistance. Please identify whether the benefits are subject to means testing, based on contributions and/or provided as service by the government, etc.
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