Research area

Social policy and redistribution

Research is concerned with welfare state and social policy changes, structural causes for the increase in social inequality, and the search for possibilities to foster a fairer distribution of life chances. Public social policy faces great pressure to adapt to challenges arising from the increasing individualisation of life courses and the expansion of often precarious forms of non-standard employment. The growing importance of privatised and corporate social policy implies new challenges not only for individual citizens, but also for social partners on the corporate and state level. Building on a critical empirical evaluation of existing framework and regulations in Germany and across Europe, WSI research seeks to uncover shortcomings in the regulatory environment and develop reform proposals based on an all-embracing notion of social security.

Main research topics

changing welfare state and social security systems - health and pension policies - poverty, distribution of life chances - redistribution policy, redistribution of income and assets - redistribution effects of taxation and social policy

Social Europe, 07.08.2017

A Big Legacy: Wealth In Europe

The "Inequality in Europe" series on Social Europe examines the different dimensions of inequality in Europe and what kind of policy mix could help addressing them. Anita Tiefensee (WSI) gives an overview on the current distribution of wealth. The most important source is owner-occupied housing. Another source are wealth transfers - inheritances and gifts, i.e. wealth accumulated without effort. But taxes on gifts and inheritances have tended to decrease in the euro area - a highly problematic development.

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Florian Blank (WSI)

Pension provision: (Still) a public task?

In a recently published contribution to an edited volume, WSI researcher Florian Blank discusses developments in pension policies in Germany. In his article he pays special attention to tendencies of privatization that took place in the German pension system since the 2001 reforms. Furthermore, he addresses the question of how to justify public pension provision.

more information ...


Combating Poverty in Local Welfare Systems

Strategies Against Poverty and Social Exclusion

The German minimum income system is characterised through vertical coordination and hierarchical modes of governance. However, the local welfare system plays a decisive role in anti-poverty and active inclusion policies. Dorothee Spannagel (WSI) investigates the case of Dortmund – a major city in the Ruhr area with a strong industrial heritage. Her study proves the importance of informal cooperation and dense networks that are based on trust and reciprocity.

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Guest workers in Germany

Poor after working hard

In the 1960s, so-called guest workers, largely from southern Europe and Turkey, helped the German economy to combine high rates of growth with stable prices and profits. Today these guest workers are retired – and are often poor. more ...

Social Europe Journal online publication

Is Job Creation Useful To Fight Poverty And Social Exclusion?

Following the European Commission, the Europe 2020 strategy shall raise the employment rate of the 20–64 year-olds to 75 percent and reduce the number of people living in or at risk-of-poverty or social exclusion by 20 million people. Dr. Eric Seils (WSI) argues that Europe needs not simply more employment but jobs that earn a living.

full text

European Labour Market Policies after the Lisbon Process

Blank, Florian, and Schulze Buschoff, Karin (eds.), 2011: European Labour Market Policies after the Lisbon Process – Results and Consequences. German Policy Studies, Special Issue 7(1). more... (pdf)

International research project "ProWelfare"

Providing welfare through Social Dialogue: A renewed role for Social Partners?

Academic partners in 8 European countries (including Dr. Florian Blank, WSI) investigated “voluntary occupational welfare” (VOW) or “contract welfare”, i.e. the provision of supplementary welfare benefits through collective bargaining and (or) unilateral bargaining by employers. The outcomes of the EU-financed project coordinated by ETUC and OSE were presented during the Final Conference held on 05.12.2013 in Brussels.

conference video report (youtube)
project homepage

For more information on projects and publications, please visit the German webpage of the research area


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