How to retrench the welfare state: Attitudes in the general population


Alexander Cappelen, Cornelius Cappelen, Stein Kuhnle, and Bertil Tungodden. 4/25/2018. “How to retrench the welfare state: Attitudes in the general population.” Social Policy & Administration, 52, 4. Find article here


In recent years, many countries have faced pressure to cut the costs of the welfare state, and different strategies have been utilized to achieve this, including stricter eligibility requirements, reduced level of benefits, and reduced maximum duration of benefits. This contribution reports the results from a Norwegian survey designed to measure which of these strategies the general population would prefer in a situation where the government has to tighten various social security schemes. For a given reduction in total costs, there is a trade‐off between the desire to avoid large individual benefit reductions and the desire to protect some groups of benefit recipients from any cuts. Different preferences for how to retrench the welfare state will reflect how individuals trade off these concerns. We find a striking association between political affiliation and preferred retrenchment strategy. Right‐wingers typically prefer to tighten the eligibility criteria, while left‐wingers typically prefer to reduce the benefit level. Furthermore, our results indicate that labor market outsiders are less in favor of tightening the eligibility criteria, but more in favor of reducing the maximum duration of benefits, than labor market insiders. This article contributes to the literature on welfare state retrenchment by examining which retrenchment strategy that the public prefers, which in turn sheds light on which measures that are likely to receive popular support from different demographics in the population.

Last updated on 08/01/2018