Changes in European Welfare: New Forms of Citizenship in Europe

8. New Forms of Governance

The role of the state in welfare provision is undergoing change, as the state (centrally or locally) to a lesser extent is the sole or dominating provider of protection against risks. This trend is associated with the development of more complex and dynamic structures of governance over welfare provision (Newman, 2005; Johansson and Hvinden, 2005). In some respects, the state has taken on more active roles, e.g. in combating discrimination and social exclusion, and ‘activating’ the unemployed. In other respects, however, the state is retreating from its previous tasks, actively encouraging individuals and market players to provide the services and protection themselves.
We cannot simply view the new, more complex governance structures associated with these changes as a consequence of the more multifaceted forms of active citizenship emerging (e.g in the Nordic countries). Neither can we view these new forms of citizenship as simply resulting from recent changes in the structures of welfare governance. The dynamic relationship between the two is probably better captured by Weber’s concept of ‘elective affinity’ (Ringer 1997): a mutually enabling and active resonance between two social phenomena. This resonance also reinforces the general nature of the move towards active citizenship; it is not simply limited to one section or subgroup of the population.

9. Active Citizenship — An Analytical Framework

References to ‘active citizenship’ are frequently made by policy makers, journalists and scholars, albeit usually in a general, ad hoc or strongly context-dependent way. A good starting point for a more systematic treatment comes from David Miller (2000). In his discussion of the challenges that a multicultural society raises for citizenship Miller distinguishes between three main understandings of citizenship and, consequently, of active social citizenship:
First, citizenship in a socio-liberal sense is a relationship between the individual and the state, involving encompassing sets of mutual rights and obligations. Here, a move towards active citizenship could imply that the state asks its citizens to more actively fulfil specific duties, for instance taking part in different forms of welfare-to-work (activation) programmes in return for social benefits of different kinds. Similarly, immigrants who want to become permanent residents and eventually be granted state citizenship must go through specific introduction programmes, courses in the language and culture of the host country, etc. more often.
Second, in a libertarian sense, the relationship between state and individual is more narrowly conceived, with the emphasis on the self-responsibility and autonomy of the individual. The responsibilities and legitimate tasks of the state are therefore limited, to guaranteeing and protecting the few but fundamental rights of the individual. Individuals should be able to exercise choice and freely enter contracts to promote their own well-being and protection against risks of various kinds. According to this understanding, a move towards active citizenship could mean that citizens have greater scope for exercising individual choice and foresight, as knowledgeable consumers in a mixed welfare market.
Third, citizenship in a republican sense generally focuses on the citizen’s participation in the affairs of his or her community, and the expectation that the individual is committed to acknowledging and promoting the well-being of the community as a whole. A move towards active citizenship with this understanding could aim to achieve broader and more intensive citizen participation, both in deliberation and dialogue with relevant agencies and in self-directed activity. Increased participation might take both individual and collective forms. On the one hand, individual ‘users’ might engage in a dialogue to clarify the appropriate measures or courses of action; on the other hand, they might be involved in consultation and negotiation over the design and planning of new policies.
The exact meaning of the active and passive dimensions of social citizenship depends on what theoretical approach to social citizenship one adopts. In table 1 we give a simplified presentation of how the degree of ‘activeness’ may vary for all three understandings of citizenship.

Table 1: Analytical framework: Opening within and between models of social citizenship

More generally, we need to open our conceptualisation of social citizenship. This opening is partly a question of avoiding an arbitrary focus on either passive or active dimensions of social citizenship (regardless of how ‘passive’ or ‘active’ is constructed), but rather seeing these aspects in relation to each other and how they may even mutually condition each other (‘opening within’). Existing research on citizenship has tended to limit its attention to one of several possible perspectives or approaches to social citizenship, rather than asking how the elements of reality on which each of them focuses, may co-exist and interact with each other (‘opening between’).
While the ‘opening within’ of social citizenship concerns the horizontal relationships in table 1, the ‘opening between’ of social citizenship refers to the vertical relationships, that is, the ways in which we may combine normative ideas and notions conventionally associated with different approaches to social citizenship. Currently, the active dimension of each approach and their combination are of particular interest, as illustrated by the on-going debates about welfare reform in Europe and most member states. In these debates we can observe several attempts to combine notions like: fulfilling duties (obligations); exercising choice and self-responsibility, and participating in deliberation and decision-making. Hence, one important task for future research is to describe and analyse how and why the resulting new and ‘hybrid’ forms of social citizenship give rise to tensions, conflicts and ambiguities.

10. The Analytical Framework in Use: Illustrations from a European Study

The analytical framework we have presented here has grown out of and developed as part of a research project funded by the Welfare Research Programme of the Nordic Council of Ministers. An inter-disciplinary team of researchers from the Nordic countries, Germany and United Kingdom carried out case-studies in these areas of welfare policy, legislation and practice:
• Activation — and reforms linking income maintenance and employment promotion.
• The scope for participation of marginal groups in deliberation and decision-making.
• The impact of human rights legislation on welfare, legal protection against discrimination, and social barriers to equal market participation.
• The coordination of social security systems to facilitate cross-border mobility
• Pension reform — and efforts to make pension systems sustainable
To see to what extent the case studies have clarified our three broad questions, in Table 2 we summarize the main implications of the case studies for the remaking of social citizenship — most directly within the Nordic welfare states but potentially beyond them.

10.1 Implications of Activation Reform

Activation reform has meant that the fulfilment of duties or activity requirements has been given greater emphasis within the income maintenance system for people of working age. To comply with such requirements has more or less become a condition for being granted cash benefits, for instance social assistance, unemployment benefit or sickness- and disability-related payments. Arguably this implies that underlying notions of a ‘balance’ between rights and duties, associated with the original socio-liberal understanding of citizenship has gained new or renewed significance.
Even more striking is the way in which activation reforms have adopted notions of ‘user participation’ and ‘co-determination’, and even ‘choice’, especially in the context of the joint formulation of individual action plans to promote self-sufficiency of the unemployed citizen. This seems paradoxical, given that the (initial or continued) granting of benefits like social assistance benefits is to a growing extent made conditional on the fulfilment of activity requirements, while non-compliance is met with negative sanctions (reduction or termination of payments). In other words, to the extent that the person is dependent on the cash benefits, an element of compulsion appears to contradict the notion of (freedom of) choice. Yet, according to the case study of activation reform in Finland it is possible to reconcile these elements in practice. On the other hand, the more diverse cases of Norway and Sweden suggest that the combination of forced and voluntary participation in activation reform has been less consistent and convincing in these countries. The experiences reported by unemployed citizens claiming social assistance in these countries indicate that the element of compulsion dominated over the elements of involvement and co-determination in individual action plans (if such plans existed at all). A more general implication of these findings is that when governments attempt to combine elements associated with different models of active citizenship, they may in practice suppress or neglect some of those elements.

Table 1: Analytical framework: Opening within and between models of social citizenship
(click to enlarge)

Finally we may note that the introduction or stronger enforcement of activity requirements in income security systems in the 1990s became part of EU policy, most clearly expressed within the European employment strategy. This suggests that such activity requirements have — or are about to — become an aspect of social citizenship in a great number of European countries. Yes, existing research gives us reason to expect that the extent to, and ways in which activity requirements are put into practice will vary considerably between European countries.
Perhaps with the exception of Finland, it is not obvious that the adoption of activation goals at European level has in any significant way influenced the introduction or reinforcement of activity requirements in the Nordic countries. Probably it is rather the other way around. Sweden and Norway especially had over a long period based their income maintenance systems in the ‘work line’, involving among other things activity requirements for people of working age who were claiming cash benefits. Moreover, the policy shift to activation happened in Demark, Norway and Sweden in the late 1980s and early 1990s, long before activation was firmly established as an operational part of EU policy.
Traditionally welfare states belonging to the Southern and Western parts of Europe have subscribed much less than the Nordic countries to an activation rationale, with Continental welfare states in intermediate positions. In other words, many welfare states have relied on other mechanisms to promote labour market participation and self-sufficiency than activity requirements in fairly generous and encompassing systems of public income maintenance. The simplest of these mechanisms has obviously been the (assumed or actual) work-promoting incentive of low or non-existent public income transfers.
In the Nordic welfare states activity requirements have from the start been seen as a way of preventing excessive demand for public income transfers from citizens of working age, but also as expressions of a reciprocal ‘moral’ relationship between rights and duties, to be discharged by both the individual and the state (construed as representative of the societal community). In spite of the Nordic welfare states’ general claim to be ‘universal’, the rights to cash benefits associated with social citizenship has to a great extent depended on past or current efforts of citizens, in the form of past employment and earnings or in current fulfilment of activity requirements with the aim of becoming employed (again). This aspect of Nordic welfare policy has undergone a renaissance in the last two decades. Against the backdrop of new patterns of unemployment, what many observers have perceived as excessive demand for income transfers, as well as the restated political ambition to promote inclusion and participation, policy-makers have added new elements to the traditional Nordic commitment to an active policy of social protection. This does not mean that schemes that mainly provide income maintenance for people of working age (‘passive’ provisions) have ceased to exist in the Nordic context. Rather we have seen the emergence of a more complex and dynamic relationship between the passive and active dimensions of the Nordic version of socio-liberal citizenship.

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