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The Rise of the Welfare State

Introduction: The Rise of the Welfare State

It is during our first years of elementary school when most of us start to understand the concept and function of having a government, it is during this time that teachers emphasize that the government exists to take care of all us, to make sure that those that do not have a house are sheltered and those who have no food are fed; a pretty simple concept that goes along with standard theory which views the government as functional, which means that when a need arises, it is the government’s duty to jump in to fill in that gap or cover that need; however if governments are not functional, what else can they be? Isn’t that the main purpose of governments in the first place? To take care of those in need, to create opportunities for those who find it hard to succeed, in other words, the purpose of governments around the world is simple to help those that cannot help themselves. Humans have had organization patterns ever since pre-historic times, even in the most basic structures of organization, people have agreed, consciously or unconsciously, to delegate power to a few that in exchange compromise to take care of the necessities of the whole, yet the idea of welfare and dependency was still not clearly defined nor understood and still had not permeated every aspect of society.

At the onset of the 19th Century, the family was still considered the principal welfare institution of society, dependency was not a public phenomenon, but instead it was absorbed by the family and its extensions. Families took care of their aged, unmarried men and women lived in the households of their married siblings and children were fully concealed within the household. However, with time this has changed and many of the welfare activities of the family are no longer carried out from within it, instead welfare has moved to the public realm and outside the extended family, into the larger society. Dependency has moved to the state due to an increasing change in the economy. Before the Industrial Revolution took place, the economy was a subsistence economy, with families producing for their own consumption, with very few exceptions, economic activities that employed others outside the immediate family took place at a local level, or near the family; nonetheless industrialization brought about changes in the economy that changed the structure of families all around the world; the central element in that change was the movement of economic activities outside the household, the new activities became increasingly distant from it and this distance brought about the removal of men’s labor from the household, men left the farm and went away to the factory or office, this carried other major changes in society such as the growth of public schooling and the movement of women’s work from inside the household to outside. Before the advent of public schooling, boys and girls learned most of the things they needed to succeed in life from their parents, little girls were taught by their mothers how to behave as a lady, how to cook, clean and become a worthy housewife, while fathers taught their sons manly duties and how to behave as strong men; with the rise of public schooling and the increasing changes in society children were beginning to grasp the concept of intellectual learning and to understand that in order to succeed in this new way of life it was necessary to understand the market economy and to venture outside the household. [1] 

Industrialization and urbanization deprived the masses, uprooted from the soil or the small town, of their sense of community, belonging, and mutual aid; alienated and deracinated in the city and in the factory; the masses started reaching out for the welfare state to take the place of their old community. At the same time, many companies started offering non-monetary compensation to their employees such as health care and housing, and imposing minimum wages and maximum hours of work, this was the first type of welfare offered in the workforce, however it is important to notice that many employers did so not because they cared about the well-being of their employers but to encourage mass production and increased labor. Industrialization changed the whole structure of family life and the concept of traditional gender roles; families have followed for centuries the basic standard of the man as the breadwinner of the household and the woman as the housewife. On the other hand, the industrial revolution also gave birth to another revolution that developed in a very subtle way but changed all the aspects of society in a radical: the revolution of women. Along with the change in the workplace, the structure of families also changed and with that, the perception women had of themselves shifted as well; many women started to understand that they were just as valuable and capable as men, that they had the same capacities of men to succeed in the market economy and to shine for themselves, with their emancipation women decided to step out of the shadow of men and shine on their own, however, society was still not ready for this big change. [2] 

Although the concept of the welfare state is the same across societies, many countries adopted their own unique form of welfare state and designed their own policies according to their own ideologies. It would be almost impossible to talk about the different types of welfare regimes without citing Esping-Andersen’s classification of the welfare states, in 1990 Esping-Andersen published his book “The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism” in which he identified three different types of welfare state, connecting these with variations in the historical development of different Western countries. According to his analysis, there are three different types of welfare state: the Corporatist Welfare Regime, the Social Democratic/Scandinavian Welfare Regime and the Liberal Welfare Regime.

The Corporatist Welfare Regime is mainly typical of continental Europe where the influence of the Catholic Church and of the authoritarian conservative state was strongest. Among these, the German welfare model is the best known. Conservative welfare states are concerned with maintaining order and status and encourage women to stay at home in order to ensure the survival of the traditional family. This conservative welfare regime enjoys a high level of public support and allows benefit recipients to maintain their level of income without a great tax burden, and most importantly allows for private service system without rationing (e.g., in health care). In conclusion, in corporatist welfare regime benefits increase as contributions to society increase. On the other hand, in the Social Democratic Welfare Regime, as the name suggests, social democracy has been the dominate political force in developing this universalistic welfare state that pervades all aspects of people's lives. Although this type of regime is extremely expensive, bureaucratic and very complex to administer, it is within this system that the concept of social rights has been most fully realized, because the enjoyment of benefits and services is least dependent on a person's performance in the market and is, instead, commensurate to need. And last but not least, we have the liberal welfare regime which is characterized by means tested programs (a test to demonstrate need) and modest universal benefits which are based on public services or insurance patterns. Although, in this regime the taxes are lower than in the other types of regimes, the state generally encourages the market to act as a co-provider of benefits, partly by providing a low level of public services, and because these benefits are also of poor quality, and carry a negative public stigma. One of the major problems with this regime is that it excludes the majority of voters from the enjoyment of welfare benefits, which makes welfare programs politically unpopular and, in the long run, unsustainable and at the same time tends to create a two-class society, those depending on poor public services and a more affluent middle class that enjoys much better services provided by the market. Simply put, in this type of regime, you get for what you pay for which represents an incredible burden for the lower classes that are not able to afford good quality services. [3] It is within this type of welfare state that the United States falls into, along with Canada and the United Kingdom. Still, even among similar welfare regimes are important to notice that welfare policies differ greatly from state to state. For instance, even though Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom are all liberal welfare regimes, the amount of benefits and the accessibility to these benefits differ significantly among these countries. Hence, why and how does this happen? In order to understand why similar welfare regimes

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