Generating Legitimacy for Labor Market and Welfare State Reform-The Role of Policy Advice in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden

By Eichhorst, Werner; Wintermann, Ole | German Policy Studies, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Generating Legitimacy for Labor Market and Welfare State Reform-The Role of Policy Advice in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden


Eichhorst, Werner, Wintermann, Ole, German Policy Studies


1 Introduction (1)

Policy advice can help inform policy makers on societal problems, their causes and potential solutions, thus contributing to appropriate institutional reforms and effective societal problem-solving capacities. The relationship between scientific research and politics, however, is a delicate one, with the effective supply and transfer of policy advice depending on institutional prerequisites in both the science sector and the political system so that policy-relevant information can be generated and provided which can influence the choice and implementation of appropriate policies.

This paper first lays out some theoretical considerations on the potential of policy advice with special reference to the area of labor market and welfare state reform, emphasizing the role of policy advice in the generation of legitimacy or - at least-acceptance of often unpopular decisions on institutional reforms.(2) We then present empirical evidence on the role of policy advice provided by research institutes, expert committees and other think tanks in social and labor market policy reform in three countries: Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. All three are developed welfare states with strong consensus requirements stemming from minority or coalition governments and a strong position of social partners. All faced the need for institutional change but reacted in different ways. Part of this variation can be explained by the role of policy advice. We therefore analyze the structure of policy advice and its actual function in recent labor market and welfare state reforms. In our analysis we focus particularly on the relationship between 'independent' expertise, social partner bodies and government. The paper shows to what extent the structure of policy advice in Germany inhibits the realization of its full potential regarding the design and legitimization of effective policies and why this is different in Sweden and the Netherlands.

2 The Potential of Policy Advice in Labor Market and Welfare State Reform

Welfare state and labor market reforms aiming at institutions that are consistent with sustainable economic activity and social policies often imply cutbacks on social policy programs, budget consolidation and increased flexibility of the labor market. In general, these issues are unpopular since they imply distributional effects with shortterm losses to be experienced by powerful societal actors and social groups, whereas positive effects may take time (Pierson 1994). Therefore, welfare state and labor market reforms are risky and difficult in political terms and can only be adopted and implemented with sufficient legitimacy so that immediate opposition and allocation of blame is avoided (Weaver 1986, Pierson 1994). Otherwise, political actors may suffer from loss of political support. Status quo orientation of important segments of the electorate stabilizes existing institutions and forms barriers to reforms, thus contributing to strong 'path dependence' (Pierson 2000).

Science is fundamentally different from politics as it does not deal with acquiring or defending power in electoral campaigns but is autonomous and mainly oriented towards the academic discourse. It focuses on the identification of causal relationships between different factors, with economic and social science research into the labor market and the welfare state mainly exploring the effects of institutions on labor market and social outcomes.

In order to analyze the role of policy advice in welfare state and labor market reforms, it is useful to differentiate between the concepts of 'puzzling' and 'powering' (Heclo 1974, Hemerijck/Schludi 2000). Puzzling points at the process of identifying problems and possible solutions, whereas powering means the struggle for political support needed to safeguard the acceptance of reforms. In principle, policy advice from science can provide valuable input for both the puzzling and the powering phase in policy-making.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Generating Legitimacy for Labor Market and Welfare State Reform-The Role of Policy Advice in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?