Changes in European Welfare: New Forms of Citizenship in Europe

10.2 Implications of the Scope for Participation by Marginal Groups

Recent changes in society and public policy have improved the possibilities for marginal groups to become visible and be heard in the public sphere. The expanded opportunities for visibility and voice have partly come about as an intended result of public policy, for instance policy aimed at encouraging voluntary engagement and activity, self-help, dialogue and consultation with groups whose lives are affected by welfare provisions (‘users’). National and local authorities have also to some extent provided financial and practical support to self-organised associations. A more open and tolerant social and cultural climate has also contributed to the more favourable opportunity structures for collective action on the part of groups at the margins of society; e.g. unemployed people claiming income maintenance benefits, people with impairments, and people belonging to ethnic minorities.
On the basis of these changes one can argue that the ideals of active participation in deliberation and decision-making in society, associated with republican citizenship, now also apply to groups who have previously been excluded or absent. The case studies that have examined the scope for active participation of marginal citizens, however, give a more mixed picture. These studies indicate that attempts by marginal groups to assert themselves in the public sphere and vis-à-vis political authorities and other more well-established players can be met by considerable ambivalence. This suggests that the legitimacy of active participation and independent voice on the part of marginal groups is still contested. On the other hand both the experiences of the self-organised groups in Denmark and Norway and the network of social NGOs in Sweden are promising, in the sense that despite resistance from more powerful players they have succeeded in obtaining greater visibility and influence on behalf of their constituencies. By contrast, Russian women who have married Norwegians met considerable obstacles to gaining legitimacy for their voice and obtaining access to arenas that would allow them to further develop their capabilities. These obstacles were to a great extent related to a combination of discrimination on grounds of gender and nationality.
Furthermore, from the case studies there also emerged another striking interaction between elements associated with different models of citizenship; in Denmark and Sweden the stronger enforcement of activity requirement in income security systems partly served as an impetus for the formation of self-organised associations of citizens out of work, and partly helped in establishing contact between the persons who eventually took the initiative for the organisational efforts, for instance because they had had been summoned to the same information meetings or group interviews.
Finally, our study has illustrated how the European Union, represented by the Commission, have contributed significantly to the formation and operation of transnational networks of national associations of marginal citizens. Through this, the Commission has also indirectly strengthened the position of networks and associations at national level, by providing legitimacy, valuable knowledge and support, and assistance to the building of political capacity and self-confidence of leaders and key activists. This has obviously improved the potential for the national networks and organisations for influencing public policy and creating greater scope for participation in deliberation and decision-making on the part of marginal citizens more generally.

10.3 Implications of New Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Legislation

The incorporation of human rights and anti-discrimination provisions in national legislation represents a major challenge to established ways of thinking about social citizenship. This is particularly the case in the Nordic countries where citizens have become accustomed to seeing the welfare state as the main provider of benefits and services to the whole population. Policy-makers have paid less systematic attention to the role of the state as regulator of the behaviour of other largely non-governmental players with the aim of promoting individual welfare. Such regulation can take place by means of a range of bodies for monitoring, supervision and arbitration, and eventually through the court system. To a great extent the rights provided by regulatory provisions will only be implemented or realised to the extent that individuals — or agencies acting on their behalf — are aware of them and make competent use of them by filing complaints or through litigation. In this sense human rights and anti-discrimination provisions require that active citizenship should have practical significance.
Future research has yet to fully analyse how social regulation provisions actually affect the ways in which social citizenship is exercised by individuals, but the case studies provide some illustrations. For instance, one of the case-studies analyses how immigrant women in Denmark and Norway have promoted their welfare by taking cases of discrimination on the combined grounds of gender and ethnicity to court, on the basis of human rights provisions. Another chapter has demonstrated how the on-going implementation of the EC Frame Directive on equal opportunities in employment gives people with impairments in Europe additional instruments to find and keep suitable work. Other chapters have discussed how human rights provisions (e.g. to protect the individual’s dignity) have been used to question the nature of activity requirements imposed on participants in activation measures in Denmark. Moreover, in some European countries employers’ duty to provide reasonable accommodation for job seekers or employers with impairments is undermined unless public financial support can cover a part of the costs related to accommodation. Such cases will demand the combined active use of legal provisions of a regulatory as well as redistributive nature.
Finally, as already indicated, both human rights and anti-discrimination legislation clearly express a denationalisation of citizenship, in the sense that they involve rights that are shared by the inhabitants in several countries and a thus less dependent on nationality or residence in a particular national territory. Here it is also worth noting that transnational networks acting on behalf of citizens in Europe have campaigned and lobbied for the adoption of European legislation in this area.

10.4 The Significance of the European Regime for Coordination of social Security Systems

The European Union seeks to promote cross-border mobility of labour. As one means of achieving this goal, it has established a legal regime for coordinating national social security systems. We can see this action as part of wider efforts to encourage the citizens of Europe to make active use of the opportunities provided by a single European market, both as workers and as consumers. As a result, national welfare states lose some control over the demand for their social provisions — and potentially lose the funding for these provisions. Member states can somewhat restrict welfare provisions to their own citizens, but they lose the control over the spatial location of their consumption; e.g. benefits provided by one state may become portable to others. European citizens have also gained wider scope for consuming welfare services in other countries, with the costs reimbursed by benefit systems operating in their own country. This extension of the rights provided under national social citizenship challenges the financial and administrative control of national welfare authorities.
To the extent that European citizens seek to make active use of the opportunities provided by the wider European market, the market will become a more important means of promoting the individual’s welfare, while belonging to a particular national welfare state will become relatively less significant. In this way more extensive cross-border mobility in Europe may contribute to a more long-term shift towards an increasing role for ‘market citizenship’ in general, as well as to the complex process referred to as ‘individualization’. More specifically, the shift to coordinating social security is making the provisions of national systems accessible to non-nationals, workers from other countries and other families. This process raises complex normative issues that are yet to be settled, not least because they relate to the question of what a future European social citizenship could entail.

10.5 Pension Reform — Efforts to Make Pension Systems Sustainable

Contemporary pension reform in many countries explicitly aims to strengthen the role of self-responsibility and choice, in line with core normative ideas of Libertarian or Neo-Liberal citizenship. In this sense pension reforms are often meant to contribute to a greater role for market citizenship. The comparative analysis of national pension reforms in Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden presented in this paper indicate, however, that various factors have constrained these efforts. More extensive scope for exercising individual choice has only been provided in Germany and Sweden, and even here it is more than doubtful that a large proportion of the population are fully aware of the choices open to them or feel competent to exploit the opportunities for exercising self-responsibility and choice regarding their economic security in old age. For many people in the four countries the main choice they exercise concerns the timing of their retirement, and even this decision is fraught with difficult judgments for the individual.
Currently, many governments make strong efforts to persuade people in their late middle age to postpone the time of retirement, and also provide financial incentives for such postponement. One can easily envisage here a situation where to remain in employment longer than many people would prefer, to a growing extent will be presented by governments as something near a ‘moral duty’ to society. Thus ‘active ageing’ can be constructed as an additional aspect of active citizenship. If so, the main reason will be the fact that for the large majority of the population the elements of private or market-based provisions for old age will in the foreseeable future only be smaller supplements to the provisions people will be entitled to through public pension schemes.

11. Concluding Comments

All in all, our European study has exemplified the ways in which our analytical framework may be helpful in capturing emerging dynamics and ambiguities in the area of social citizenship. More specifically, the summary of results illustrates the process of both ‘opening within- and ‘opening between’ in the notions of social citizenship which policy-makers are currently pursuing:
• Policy-makers and welfare reforms give stronger emphasis to the ‘active’ side of citizenship (as this is framed within each of the various ideal-type models) and this shift has been related to the transformations of societies and welfare policies outlined above.
• Normative ideas and notions conventionally associated with different models of citizenship — for instance ‘fulfilling duties’ (socio-liberal citizenship), ‘exercising choice and self-responsibility’ (libertarian citizenship), ‘participating in deliberation and decision-making’ (republican citizenship) are more often combined or intertwined in practice.
• At least in the context of activation reform these elements appear to sit uncomfortably together, leading in some cases to the suppression of elements in practice.
• We can also clearly observe a weakening of the strong bonds traditionally found between national welfare states and social citizenship, in the sense that the actual content of social citizenship is more greatly determined by international influences or interactions between national and supranational levels of government. Thus we see a trend toward the denationalization of social citizenship; not only in the Nordic countries, but throughout Europe. The trend towards denationalization appears to facilitate or reinforce two other trends; individualization and the marketization of citizenship.


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