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Welfare Reform and the Management of Societal Change WRAMSOC, Final report, EUR 21706 EN

Project ID: HPSE-CT-2001-00078


European welfare states are under pressures from labour markets shifts, population ageing, family change and economic globalisation. The WRAMSOC project examines changes in a range of policy-areas in seven EU countries and at EU level through reviews of recent developments at national and EU level and through more than 250 interviews with policy actors. The conceptual contribution of the project may be summarised in terms of two key distinctions:
- Between reforms involving retrenchment in response to fiscal pressures and demands that welfare states contribute to competitiveness through cost savings, and modernisation to tackle the 'new social risks' and meet the 'new aspirations' of citizens. Retrenchment is defined as responses to pressures which involve cut-backs or reform within the existing structure of welfare; modernisation as responses which involve significant innovation, either because they address a newly important need, or because the policy mechanism is transformed.
- Between objective economic and social factors that influence the context in which the politics of welfare reform operates, and the subjective level of the understanding of those issues by those actively involved in influencing and developing reforms. The latter influences processes of policy learning and transfer, opportunities for coalition-building and the extent to which policy reform is to be understood as pursuing a new direction, based on new values and objectives, or as modification of existing policy directions.
The first distinction enables us to identify areas in which European welfare state policies are involved in expansion and evolution to meet a changing agenda of citizen need, rather than simply defending the state quo under changing circumstances. The second permits further development of this distinction in terms of the new goals identified as the objectives of reform, and the implications for welfare state politics.

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