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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Social Regulation and Welfare State Reforms: a Comparative Analysis

Comparative Politics
Public Policy
Social Policy
Welfare State
Comparative Perspective
Philipp Trein
University of Geneva
Philipp Trein
University of Geneva

Many scholars and policymakers agree that regulation is important in social policy and for the welfare state in general. Nevertheless, comparative empirical assessments of the regulatory dimension in the welfare state are rare. To remedy this lacuna, this article does two things. Firstly, I conceptualize how governments link social regulations with transfers and services in three fields of social policy. Precisely, I assess how policymakers coordinate and integrate a.) immigrant integration benefits with regulations for immigration, b.) health care services with preventive health regulations, as well as c.) unemployment benefits with regulations to activate recipients of benefits into jobs. Secondly, I conduct a comparative empirical analysis that compares reforms in the three policy fields and thirteen countries, which is based on an original dataset and covers the period 1985-2014. In using multilevel regression analysis, I show that three factors lead to more reforms in that matter: the time since EU membership and the presence of a regulatory agency in the policy field, left governments with a substantial parliamentary backing, and little self-rule powers at the sub-national level. In addition, to the regression analysis, I use qualitative analysis of official documents, secondary literature, and interviews with experts and stakeholders to tease out the mechanisms that underlie the results of the statistical analysis. The findings of this paper contribute to the literature on regulatory governance in conceptualizing the regulatory dimension in three important fields of the welfare state. Furthermore, the paper provides empirical evidence for the dynamics of regulatory reforms in the welfare state and suggests explanations for differences between countries and policy fields.
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