The research project "Welfare State Futures: Our Children's Europe" (WelfSOC) is part of a transnational programme on the topic of Welfare State Futures funded by the New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Co-operation in Europe (NORFACE) network of 15 NORFACE partners and the European Commission. Funding in Germany is provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).
How European welfare states will develop is hard to predict. People’s current aspirations, ideas and assumptions will be important drivers of change and persistence and of the extent to which conflict and solidarity surround change.
We will examine the aspirations, assumptions and priorities that govern the ideas of ordinary people about the future development of welfare in Europe.
Much current research is essentially backward-looking. Projections of how welfare states will develop are based largely on analysis of relevant factors such as population ageing, pension and health care costs, changing demands for labour, immigration rates, future spending on human services, global economic developments or the costs of reducing carbon emissions. This approach assumes that the future will follow the patterns of the past.
WelfSOC is forward-looking. It examines aspirations for the future, the assumptions underlying current patterns of attitudes, the strength with which positions are held, the arguments used to support them and the emerging cleavages and solidarities between different groups. These factors will be key drivers in the unfolding of the politics of welfare and in shaping the way in which welfare states respond to current policy development and to future pressures.
WelfSOC addresses the following three questions:
The project uses innovative methods (deliberative democratic forums and qualitative cross-national focus group surveys) to develop an understanding of people’s aspirations for the Europe their children will inhabit. The interactive and discursive methods deal directly with people’s ideas, but are rarely used in comparative welfare studies. The project will contribute to theoretical work on the main cleavages and solidarities driving social policy in and to more practical consideration of the parameters of acceptable policy change. It will supply new findings relevant to the politics and sociology of welfare and provide data for reanalysis and as a base-line in future studies.
The WelfSOC project is led by Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby at University of Kent and examines welfare attitudes in five countries: Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Principal investigator of the German project is Prof. Dr. Steffen Mau (HU Berlin).
For more information on WelfSOC researchers and publications, please visit: http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/welfsoc/