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The paternalist politics of punitive and enabling workfare: evidence from a new dataset on workfare reforms in 16 countries, 1980-2015

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posted on 2023-01-12, 16:49 authored by Alexander Horn, Anthony KevinsAnthony Kevins, Kees van Kersbergen
Does neoliberalism lie behind the increased use of social policy to control and incentivize labour market behaviour? We argue that this assumed connection is theoretically weak and empirically inaccurate, and we point to an alternative explanation centred on government paternalism. Using a new comparative dataset on workfare reforms, we first describe how the overall balance of punitive and enabling demands placed on the unemployed has changed across 16 countries between 1980 and 2015. We observe a growing number of workfare reforms, modestly tilted towards the punitive side – but without a broad shift towards punitive workfare. We then assess the drivers of policy intervention, finding that government paternalism, rather than neoliberalism, helps us to understand which governments enact enabling and punitive measures. In line with our broader argument, we suggest that this reflects the moral (rather than economic) foundations of social policy.

History

School

  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Department

  • International Relations, Politics and History

Published in

Socio-Economic Review

Publisher

Oxford University Press and the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Rights holder

© The Authors

Publisher statement

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Acceptance date

2022-10-03

Publication date

2022-12-19

Copyright date

2022

ISSN

1475-1461

eISSN

1475-147X

Language

  • en

Depositor

Dr Anthony Kevins. Deposit date: 7 October 2022

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