Welfare systems in East Europe: regional variations and explanatory factors
Sociology Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB) Cerdanyola del Vallés (Barcelona), Spain
In the year 2004 the first eastward expansion of the EU took place thanks to the incorporation of eight new members (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland and Hungary). This fact somehow marks the end of the transition for the above-mentioned group of countries.
The eight countries that acceded to the EU share a set of features that makes them an object of delimited study: a common process of adhesion negotiations and a common dynamics in the process of economic and political transition beginning in the year 89. Such double transition would be mainly characterized by the influence of such international agencies like BM and IMF.
The above-mentioned agents will impose a set of quick, simultaneous economic reforms (shock therapy) and a set of measures of economic correction, including the decrease in public expenditure and, therefore, an expense reduction in the field of social protection policies. In this manner, we can speak of the introduction of a series of new measures (appeal to individual responsibility, promotion of private investments) which will mark the later development of welfare systems in the eight countries.
These pressures and common trends towards the liberalization of social protection systems would have led to the assumption that these countries nowadays constitute a specific welfare system. Nevertheless, this point of view implies supposing that the economic, social and political structure is homogeneous in the eight countries, without bearing in mind the differences which exist between them. In fact, in spite of the previously mentioned international pressures common to all of them, the national answers to the said pressures would have varied noticeably. And this would have been so due to the fact that these international pressures would have interacted with a series of specific actors and determinants characteristic of each country.
For all this, my communication will try to provide a systematic answer to the following questions: it is possible that equal pressures acting on heterogeneous realities may produce the same results? What national factors (economic, political and historical) might explain the different types of options in the construction of welfare systems?.