chapter  3
18 Pages

The Politics of Welfare Reform: Social Policy and Policy Arenas (1981–2001)

WithDionissis N. Gravaris

It is generally accepted that the course followed by the Greek welfare state from the post-war period onwards differs radically from the trajectories traversed by advanced capitalist democracies during the same period. In the latter, this process has generally been designated as a process of welfare state growth. In comparison, the process of welfare state development in Greece during the post-war period has lagged behind and appears to be a conspicuous exception to the norm. Welfare state development may be divided, retrospectively, into three successive, though distinct, phases. The first phase extends through the period 1952–1979. This is a period marked by rapid economic growth on the one hand, and by the formation of a residual and rudimentary welfare state, on the other. The second phase extends throughout the 1980s, and although it is a period of economic stagnation, it is characterised by the emergence of an indulgent welfare state. The last phase, which starts in 1990 and continues to the present, is a period combining stabilised economic growth and welfare retrenchment. 1 On the basis of this schematic periodisation, welfare state development in Greece appears to be similar to that in advanced capitalist democracies in two respects: (a) the turning points distinguishing the three phases tend to coincide; and (b) the third phase indicates that the course followed in Greece since the early 1990s seems to converge with those in advanced capitalist democracies, especially the European Union (EU) member states. However, an obvious difference consists in the negative correlation between economic growth and welfare state growth, which appears to be typical of the Greek case. 2 Hence, the differences between Greece and other advanced capitalist democracies may be examined on the basis of the different mechanisms that connect the process of economic growth with that of welfare state formation.