Since the reforms of the Social Code Book II in 2004/05, sanctions in the minimum income system have been considered a central pillar of the activating welfare state. However, in terms of social policy, it is often debated whether sanctions are generally permissible, since those affected then live (temporarily) below the socio-cultural subsistence level. In addition, the Federal Constitutional Court classified cuts above 30 % of the minimum income benefits as unconstitutional in 2019 and called for a reform process. A broad public acceptance of the changed sanction practice may be achieved if empirical evidence on the perception of such sanctions accompanies the reform process. This article investigates – based on a Vignette analysis – which sanctions are considered acceptable by the population, when hypothetical welfare recipients violate their obligation to cooperate. A majority of the representative German sample (N = 2621) favours sanctions up to 30 % of the minimum income benefit. Sole factors such as low levels of motivation to look for work, missed appointments with the specialist advisors or having a foreign-sounding name significantly increase the acceptance of sanctions amongst the wider public. Especially a combination of these factors increases the acceptance of placing sanctions on welfare recipients. In contrast, the age of the hypothetical benefit recipients plays a marginal role.
In their article within the latest issue of the Journal of Social Policy Research, Mareike Ariaans and Nadine Reibling investigate the role of health within the political poverty discourse in Germany. For this purpose, the authors review the poverty and wealth reports of the German government published since 2001 by emplyoing medicalization theory. Using qualitative and quantitative content analysis, they examine how health and illness are portrayed in the reports. In the evaluation it is evident that poverty is mainly described as a cause of illness. The formulated and proposed interventions nevertheless focus primarily on improving the health care system rather than on anti-poverty programs. Prevention and especially setting-based prevention have become more important measures in the last two reports. At the same time, these reports show a shift away from individual responsibility toward a stronger discussion of structural causes.
This year’s FIS Forum had to be cancelled due to the effects of the corona pandemic. Nevertheless, current research results from the project could be published in this year’s FIS-Briefing 2020 of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). The MEPYSO publication can be found here, all other contributions here.
Stephan Krayter and Nadine Reibling just published a systematic review of scientific publications on poverty in the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice. In this article, the authors ask whether medical and psychological disciplines are increasingly publishing on poverty and whether they are outpacing economic and legal disciplines. The results indicate that this is indeed the case. In recent decades, medicine and psychology have been among the fastest growing scientific disciplines dealing with the issue of poverty. This points to a change in the way poverty is recognized in the scientific community.
The Funding Network Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research (FIS) of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) has approved the second phase of our research project. The team is excited about two more years of social policy research (until 7/31/2022). Our focus will be summarizing our results in our planned book and developing further our recommendations for policy and practice.
In the past semester, students collected data with an extended version of our vignette study within the context of a project seminar entitled “Only difficult or ill? A project seminar on the medicalization of child behavior?”. The data were collected with 625 students and employees of the university of Siegen. The respondents have similar attitudes as the sample of our representative study from last year. About 60% of the respondents believe that children who do not completely fit the norm receive immediately a diagnosis (representative sample: 54%). Moreover, 90% disapprove with starting with medication therapy in the case of children with behavioral problems.
Also this year, the MEPYSO team was represented at the Forum of Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research (FIS) of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Berlin. Current work of FIS-funded scientists was presented there under the motto “Dialogue, Strategy and Networking”. Dr. Nadine Reibling, Mareike Ariaans, Stephan Krayter and Philipp Linden presented current results from the MEPYSO project and gave a lecture on “The role of medicine and psychology in the German welfare state”.
From September 5th to 7th 2019 the MEPYSO project participated at the ESPANET conference in Stockholm and presented two current research articles:
Philipp Linden & Nadine Reibling: Medicalization as alternative path through welfare? Determinants of the transition from unemployment to a medical leave status in the German social policy system.
Stephan Krayter & Nadine Reibling: Has poverty been increasingly medicalized? An empirical study of the scientific poverty discourse
As part of the special feature Public Health in Europe a paper by Nadine Reibling was published on the question how the welfare state affects, to what extent doctors and medication are used to deal with social problems. The paper shows that social and health policy are crucial for medicalization processes, e.g. pharmaceutical regulation is responsible for the much lower consumption of psychotropic drugs in Europe compared to the liberal US. In contrast, the welfare state can also contribute to medicalization, e.g. through activation policies that foster sick leave and self-perceived disabilities for persons on minimum income benefits.
Reibling, N. (2019): Engine and Brakes: European Welfare States and the Medicalization of Social Problems. Europe Now, https://www.europenowjournal.org/2019/06/10/engine-and-brakes-european-welfare-states-and-the-medicalization-of-social-problems/.
The first project publication is online!
- What role does stigmatization, triggered by a status of unemployment, play in the lives of affected persons?
- How widespread and stressful is such a stigmatization?
- And does the perceived stigmatisation change as a result of medicalisation, e.g. when those affected are exempted from the compulsory job search/recording due to health restrictions?
Answers from a study with quantitative data are now available under: