Fiscal austerity and the welfare state

OSE started new research for the European Trade Union Institute aimed at developing a critical assessment of the welfare reforms adopted by the Member States in the wake of the economic and fiscal crisis. The research project embraces a larger set of policies: labour market policies, social policies (pensions), education, R&D, and public sector reforms. Some of these areas are typical examples of the so-called ‘structural reforms’ supported by international organisations and the EU. In line with the literature, we define structural reforms as measures designed to increase the intensity of competition in markets for labour and goods via privatisation and/or deregulation.

The project tries to qualify the nature of the reforms introduced so far and their impact on social and employment policies: do they represent a ‘race to the bottom’ (with overall cutbacks) or rather a ‘revision’ (with both cutbacks and improvements) of labour and social policy measures (and the other public policies under scrutiny) in post-industrial European societies? The project also tackles the question of convergence (towards the neo-liberal paradigm) versus divergence (overall retrenchment, dualization and flexicurity) between varieties of welfare capitalisms in the context of the Great Recession. The project will address these questions, providing evidence of the output and outcomes of the reforms in the EU Member States.

OSE researchers involved in this project: David Natali (project leader), Chiara Agostini and Sebastiano Sabato