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Post-Productivism and Welfare States: A Comparative Analysis

  • ROBERT VAN DER VEEN (a1) and LOEK GROOT (a2)

Abstract

This article provides operational measures for comparing welfare states in terms of the concept of post-productivism, as pioneered by Goodin in this Journal, and discusses the normative relevance of such comparisons. Post-productivism holds that it is desirable to grant people a high level of personal autonomy, through the welfare state's labour-market institutions and transfer system, and maintains that on average, people would choose to make use of their autonomy by working less, hence earning less and having more free time. By contrast, existing welfare states, for example as classified in Esping-Andersen's three-way split of liberal, social-democratic and corporatist regimes, are largely ‘productivist’, as their policies try to design social rights so as ensure economic self-reliance through full-time work. The question is whether they actually succeed in doing so. With a limited dataset of thirteen OECD countries for 1993, three conditions of personal autonomy – income adequacy, temporal adequacy and absence of welfare-work conditionality – are discussed in terms of policy outputs, which can be read off from easily accessible OECD statistics. Two closely related concepts are explored: comprehensive post-productivism, measuring the extent to which welfare states approximate the ideal of personal autonomy, and restricted post-productivism, which follows from two common goals shared by all welfare states (avoidance of poverty and reduction of involuntary underemployment), and expressly focuses on the policy outputs on which the productivist and post-productivist perspectives specifically disagree: welfare-work unconditionality, voluntary underemployment and average annual hours of work per employee. After showing that ranking the thirteen cases puts the Netherlands at the top and the United States at the bottom, in conformity with Goodin's earlier work, it is shown that restricted post-productivism is not positively associated with the poverty rate, and negatively with the rate of involuntary underemployment. This finding sets the stage for our discussion of normative issues underlying a preference for either productivist or post-productivist arrangements of work and welfare. Suggestions for further research are given in the final section.

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