Labour market- versus life course-related social policies: understanding cross-programme differences

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Series Details Vol.19, No.2, March 2012, p275-291
Publication Date March 2012
ISSN 1350-1763
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The article introduces the distinction between labour market- and life course-related social programmes and discusses why it matters politically. Life course risks are by and large uncorrelated with the income distribution, so the median voter will be comparably favourable towards generous provision. Left- and right-wing governments will therefore enact similar policies, and constitutional veto points will play no role for provision because no political actors will use them to block change. The median voter is less favourable towards labour market-related programmes that protect against risks that first and foremost adversely affect low-income individuals.

Right-wing governments therefore have greater leeway to implement retrenchment on labour market-related programmes. Yet, in the event of external shocks to the labour market like rising unemployment and globalization, the median voter becomes gradually more exposed to labour market risks, which in turn reduces the room for right-wing retrenchment.

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