Emergence and structuring of social insurance institutions : comparative studies on social policy and unemployment insurance

Abstract: The Strengths and Limits of Generalizing Theory inAccounting for Comparative Welfare State Development: An IntroductoryEssay. This essay discusses some central theoretical, empirical and inferentialproblems in comparative welfare state research, and summates the results ofstudies pursued here. Frontiers for further research are indicated.The need for more institutionalist accounts of social policy is argued forwith special reference to the structural diversity of unemploymentinsurance programs at the beginning of the 1990s, as well as the challengesthis poses for standard economic theory on the work disincentives these programs supposedly entail. The need formore historicizing accounts is argued with focus upon ongoing processes ofsocial change concomitant to welfare state structuring, including trends inglobalization,civic protest, divisions among leftist parties, and ideology.Thresholds to the Welfare State: SocietalConcomitants of the First Laws on Social Insurance. The emergence of the welfare state is studied in relation to processes ofsocial change such as democratization, economic growth, and elites'strategic action to pacify labor movements, as well as to constitutionalfederalism.Qualitative analysis indicates that social insurance enactment rather tendsto follow the founding of labor parties than of trade unions, while usuallypreceding the more reactive foundation of confessional or ChristianDemocratic parties and trade unions. Conservative and liberal elitesdiffered in their motives for social policy activism, which were not limited to pacification of the working class.Multivariate analysis indicates that trade union consolidation slightlydecreases the likelihood of the very earliest social insurance enactmentsoccurring, while strongly elevating the likelihood of later legislation. Trade unions make the most difference forsocial insurance enactment under low growth conditions. Federalconstitutions are found to have delayed social insurance. Leadership ineconomic growth was not associated with legislative activism--if anything, a negative relationship is indicated by the data.Deadlock, Charge and Countercharge:Unemployment Insurance in Highly Industrialized Nations from 1930sDepression to 1990s Retrenchment. Cross-national trends in centralinstitutional aspects of unemployment insurance (including organization, coverageand replacement rates) are described for major periods of macroeconomicchange since the 1930s. In the long run, voluntary and corporatistinstitutional forms (directed to fund members and to core labor force groups respectively) make forhigher benefit rates but lower coverage. Comprehensive compulsoryinsurance, for most of those active on the labor market, provides lowerbenefits while tending towards full coverage among employees--income-tested programs yield lower minimum benefits.Such institutional constraints have limited income security inunemployment. Since the "oil shocks" in 1973, right-wing governments cut back programs more often thanexpanding them--there is otherwise no systematic political logic to changes in insurance extension, whichtend to generate conflict also within (rather than simply between) majorparty-political power blocs.Sheer Necessity or Strategic Opportunity?Temporality and Contingency in the Institutional Politics of UnemploymentInsurance. In this study, it is argued that the development of unemployment insurancemust be explained with reference to its institutional structure, as well asto nation-specific and historical context. Descriptive analyses indicatethat constitutional hindrancesto decisionmaking make little difference in themselves for programinclusivity, but may change the context where it evolves by limitingworking class mobilization. Multivariate analyses indicate that constitutional factors, strike activity, and party politics often bear a lesssystematic relation to insurance extension in the 1930s than in postwaryears, while partly the reverse is true of agrarian labour force structure.Stronger working class mobilization actually coincides with lower coverage if the impact of voluntaryinsurance institutions is not controlled for. Economic growth hasinconsistent effects on both coverage and replacement rates, depending onwhich other factors are controlled for. Replacement rates are lower under comprehensive or means-tested institutionalforms, but are not as well explained by macrosocial factors as is coverage.Christian Democratic party strength makes more difference for insuranceextension than does the strength ofworking class movements. Finally, strong "ratchetingeffects" of prior reforms uphold insurance extension,particularily coverage levels.