The Transformation of Welfare Capitalism in Europe and East Asia: Comparing Germany, the UK, Sweden, Japan and South Korea

Fleckenstein Timo, Soohyun Christine Lee(이수현)

Welfare states across the OECD have seen paradigmatic changes over the past 20 years, and this in particular applies to labour market and family policies. We have observed a fundamental reshaping of the welfare-work-and-family nexus in advanced political economies; and this transformation (with its far-reaching implications for social inequality) and its politics are at the heart of the proposed book. Although these developments in social welfare have received much attention in the comparative social policy literature, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of the politics of these welfare reforms.

Our research, acknowledging the profound socio-economic transformation of the last three to four decades (namely, globalisation and post-industrialisation), identifies the key changes in the socio-economic environment. We investigate how these changes with huge socio-political implications have translated into key actors’ ideas and preferences in order to identify the political drivers of labour market and welfare reforms in the “critical” cases of Germany, the UK, Sweden, Japan and South Korea. With this comparison of European and East Asian welfare states, we propose a highly innovative and original research design that allows for methodologically robust findings in addition to facilitating dialogue and cross-fertilisation between the European and East Asian literatures. In terms of substantive findings, our book provides a unique account of the transformation of political agency and coalitions in interaction with changes in the socio-economic and socio-political environments. We show the transformation of political parties – most notably, the left in labour market policy driven towards the centre by business, and the right in family policy by increasingly “post-industrial” electorates. We develop an analytical framework that puts agency centre-stage that allows capturing the changing coalition and power dynamics in welfare reform.

TOC: 1. Introduction; 2. The Politics of Social Policy in Europe and East Asia; 3. Globalisation, Post-Industrialisation and Skills; 4. Labour Market Reforms in Europe; 5. Family Policy Reforms in Europe; 6. Labour Market Reforms in East Asia; 7. Family Policy Reforms in East Asia; 8. Comparing Labour Market and Family Policy Reforms in Europe and East Asia; 9. Lessons for the Reform Capacity of Welfare States; 10. Conclusions