Welfare State

  • Joachim Vogel
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 18)


The idea of the welfare state builds on a conception of social rights guaranteed to all citizens (Marshall, 1950). Social rights are an extension of democratic rights, defining welfare rights monitored on the political arena by collective decision-making. Social rights are usually expressed with explicit reference to equality and social inclusion. The issue has repeatedly entered public debate and social planning, promising a great leap forward as in Roosevelt’s New Deal, Johnson’s Great Society or the Swedish social democratic vision of the ‘Folk Home’. The right to employment (supported by labour market policy), to safe working conditions (labour protection regulation), the right to education (tax-based mass schooling), poverty relief (transfers) and general public health care are all widely accepted in Europe in all political camps. However, there is less consensus on just how far social citizenship and the responsibilities of the welfare state should be reaching. This is the field of major political dispute between liberal, conservative and socialist ideology. Believers of the free market tend to see the welfare state, social rights and taxation as an obstacle to market efficiency. Competitiveness is often equated with fairness in the distribution of living conditions, and social rights as disincentives to work. Hence, there is a dual conception of social rights: most people take them for granted and inevitable, but just how comprehensive, residual or targeted they should be, and for what areas in life, is a matter of dispute.


Labour Market Welfare State Nordic Country Purchase Power Parity Parental Leave 
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  1. 1.
    The income concept was changed in the 1991 tax reform (broken line = adjusted line). Peaks are effects of the tax reform (1991) and a temporary 50 percent reduction of capital taxation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim Vogel
    • 1
  1. 1.SCB Statistics Sweden Welfare Analysis ProgramUniversity of UmeåStockholmSweden

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