Social Policy and Administration, vol.45, no.4, August 2011

As Bent Greve writes in his introduction to this highly topical edition of Social Policy and Administration, the financial crisis which began in 2008 has given rise to ‘a new era of welfare states … where targeting and emphasis on work are more substantial than earlier’ (p.333). Cuts in welfare budgets mean lower and more restricted benefits and higher retirement ages. The aim is now to save money rather than to improve services.

Two articles show that the financial crisis has generated policy changes consistent with long-term policy tendencies; another that initial Keynesian responses are giving way to retrenchment; and another that governments have in fact not taken advantage of the crisis to bring about otherwise unachievable policy changes. Two articles show that it is political rather than economic factors which have generated welfare state reforms.

The overall impression is one of intensification of existing welfare state styles but with additional tendencies towards retrenchment and ‘targeting’ – the latter unfortunately understood as means-testing rather than as increasing the coverage and levels of universal benefits in the context of progressive tax systems.