Welfare State Futures: Our Children’s Europe

WelfSOC examines the aspirations, assumptions and priorities that govern the ideas of ordinary people about the future development of welfare in Europe. It relies on innovative deliberative forums and focus groups in order to investigate attitudes towards the future of the welfare state.

Five deliberative forums were conducted by the research teams in Denmark, Germany, Norway, Slovenia and the United Kingdom between October and November 2015. These two-day events, organised with the help of national research agencies, gave the opportunity for participants to reflect on the future of the welfare state and address the following question: “What should the priorities of the government in [country] be for benefits and services in 2040?” Early findings suggest that the discussion at such events generates attitude changes among participants, in relation to their ideas about government responsibility, welfare chauvinism and the part to be played by the individual. It also indicates that the justifications for different policies differ between countries and this can be related to national welfare state traditions and regime types.The data will be analysed further during the next few months in order to produce comparative research papers and a book which will sum up the project’s findings and examine the benefits of the innovative research method.

The first major publication related to this project is a book entitled After Austerity: The Future of the Welfare State: New Cleavages and Solidarities in Europe, which will be published by Oxford University Press in 2017. This book, co-edited by the co-ordinating team (Peter Taylor-Gooby, Benjamin Leruth and Heejung Chung), conceptualises policy responses to the Great Recession across Europe and offers a wide range of empirical chapters written by WelfSOC members and external contributors.

The next stage of the WelfSOC project uses focus groups conducted in the five countries in order to investigate the issues of solidarity, responsibility and deservingness. These focus groups were carried out in October and November 2016. The data is currently being coded and shared between the research teams.

You can find more information about the project as well as working papers on the website http://welfsoc.eu, or follow us on Twitter @WelfSOC.