The literature on the social legitimacy of welfare benefits has shown that sick persons are perceived more deserving than unemployed individuals. However, these studies examine sick and unemployed persons as distinct groups, while unemployment and sickness are in fact strongly related. Policymakers across Europe have been increasingly concerned with discouraging a medicalization of unemployment and activating sick unemployed persons. Therefore, it is crucial to understand welfare attitudes toward this group. Using a factorial survey fielded with a representative sample of German-speaking adults (N=2,621), we investigate how sickness affects attitudes toward a hypothetical unemployed person on three dimensions: benefit levels, conditions, and sanctions. Respondents allocated similar benefit levels to unemployed persons regardless of whether they have an illness. Yet, they were more hesitant to apply existing conditions (e.g., active job search, job training) or sanction benefits when the unemployed person was also sick. This is except for conditions that tie benefits to obligatory health services (back training or psychological counseling) which was supported by the majority of respondents. Our research shows that the German public is not more generous and only partially more lenient toward sick unemployed persons as there is strong support for conditions targeted at overcoming ill health for this group. The findings underscore that sickness matters for how unemployed persons are perceived, but the impact varies across different dimensions of welfare attitudes.
Active labour market policy (ALMP) reforms have fundamentally changed welfare states over the last decades. Their objectives are quite diverse: workfare reforms have increased conditionality and sanctioning of benefits, while enabling reforms have extended education and training opportunities for the unemployed. Little is known about the political discourse on ALMP reforms. We investigate how the individual unemployed person is portrayed in ALMP reforms via a comparative coding analysis of parliamentary debates on labour market reforms that took place in Germany in 2003 (workfare) and in 2016 (enabling). Our results indicate that compared to enabling reforms the individual unemployed is less important in the framing of workfare reforms but more often blamed. Party characteristics matter: parties on the left more often point to the deservingness of the unemployed. However, when the social democratic party in government introduced a workfare reform they used blaming of unemployed persons as a framing strategy.
Ariaans, M; Reibling, N (2022): Constructions of Unemployed Individuals in German Parliamentary Debates on Active Labour Market Policy Reforms: A Comparative Analysis of 2003 and 2016. In: Social Policy and Society, 1–18.
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.