This text is drawn from www.goete.eu/glossary

Welfare has been one of the central areas of studies in social research. It is a relative and dynamic concept and varies with time and place. Important welfare components include education, employment, work environment, economy, housing, transport and communication, social relations, political resources, health, social mobility, safety and security. At the same time as mainstream welfare research is broadening the scope of analysis towards individual agency, there is also a tendency towards finely-textured welfare research on individuals where institutional contexts are incorporated. With the expression “welfare state” we define a body of public interventions, tied with the modernization process, aimed at achieving redistribution granting protection, resources and abilities through activation, assistance, insurance and social security. These interventions are part of wider welfare systems, including other forms of resource allocation (market, reciprocity). Though, the welfare state, via the rule-of-law, do regulate the production and allocation of resources, introducing social rights and contribution duties. The balance of market, reciprocity and redistribution varies and is context related, according to institutional differences (Esping-Andersen 2000; Alber 1982; Kazepov & Carbone 2007).First forms of welfare in the modern sense of the term have been developed during the XIX Century throughout out European countries to answer to the twofold phenomenon of industrialisation and urbanisation (Ritter 1991). These measures were aimed at protecting workers against social risks (work accidents, maternity leave, retirement) and, on the other hand, to address a new form of poverty discovered by social surveys –pauperism-. Welfare was then organised through social assistance and mainly at local level by NGO’s, workers’ organisations and Municipalities (Alber, 1982; de Swaan, 1988). At this period, youth beneficiated from protection through patronages or specific work legislation, for instance (Loncle, 1998).

Though, from the late XIX century, starting with Bismarck’s social insurance in Germany, welfare more and more becomes a state issue, with a centralized management that becomes utmost during the Trente Glorieuses (Brenner 2004; Kazepov 2010). From the Second World War, new forms of welfare have been introduced by Western States, and different national patterns and place-based types of social protection consolidated (Esping-Andersen, 1990). Besides their organizational, target and coverage differences, they are all aimed at coping with social risks, from poverty to unemployment, from illness to care. In this framework, youth benefited from various national interventions which had all in common to propose ad hoc programmes. Usually they were and still are less protective than other programmes (e.g. see the RMI experience in France). This tended to raise the question of youth social citizenship (Jones, 2005).

With the 1980s, the crisis of the Welfare state and the development of mass unemployment, changes have been introduced in national social protection systems. Firstly, a general trend towards neoliberal measures (New Public Management, quasi-market arrangements, cost-efficiency and cost containment). Notably, there has been a shift from welfare to workfare. Second, there has been a relevant change in responsible authorities, within a general process of subsidiarization and demonopolization, with an increasing role played by territorial institutions, by non-state non-public actors and (less extensively) by supranational authorities (Ferrera 2005; Keating 2009). As a consequence, we can also see a resurgence of local welfare arrangements (Mingione et al., 2002). In this context, youth appears particularly undeserving as it is often supposed to cheat the system (Jones, 1997). It also tends to be the group of population whose protection depends less on national social protection and more on facultative and local forms of social assistance (Walther, 2006 ; Castel, 2003 ; Loncle, to be published). These subsidiarization and demonopolization trends coupled with changed family arrangements call for a new, more balanced and interconnected role of policies to cope with problems of care and youth policies (Mahon 2005).


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Castel, Robert (2003) L’insécurité sociale : qu’est-ce qu’être protégé ? Paris : Seuil

De Swaan, Abram (1998) In the Care of the State, Cambridge: Polity Press.

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Jones, Gill (2005) Social protection policies for young people: a cross-national comparison, in Bradley Harriet and van Hoof Jacques (eds) Young people in Europe, Labour markets and Citizenship, Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 41-64.

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Loncle, Patricia (to be published in April 2010) Politiques de jeunesse, les enjeux d’intégration. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes.

Mahon, R. (2005) Rescaling social reproduction: child care in Toronto/Canada and Stockholm/Sweden. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29 (2): 341-57.

Mingione, Enzo, Oberti Marco and Peririnha, José (2002) Cities as local systems, in Saraceno, Chiara (ed) Social Assistance dynamics in Europe, National and Local Poverty Regimes, pp. 35-80.

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Seymour, J (1999) Consructs from the New Paradigm: An exploration of Diverse Meanings. In Williams & Popay: Welfare Research. A Critical Review. London: UCL Press.

Walther, Andreas (2006) Regimes of Youth Transitions. Choice, Flexibility and Security in Young People’s Experiences across Different European Contexts, YOUNG, 14(1), pp. 119-141.

(Patricia Loncle, Yuri Kazepov and Ilse Julkunen)