The (changing) consideration of social investment in the design of welfare benefits: The case of poverty relief in Austria

Heitzmann, Karin ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4162-7566 and Matzinger, Sandra (2021) The (changing) consideration of social investment in the design of welfare benefits: The case of poverty relief in Austria. Social Policy and Administration, 55. pp. 573-588. ISSN 1467-9515

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Abstract

The social investment perspective has become a prominent topic in both social policy discussions and theoretical considerations regarding welfare state change. Empirical evidence on how this perspective has affected welfare state provision is much scarcer—and sometimes contradictory. This article aims to assess whether welfare state benefits increasingly have incorporated elements of social investment, and what has triggered the reforms made to the benefits. To achieve these aims, we examined two poverty relief benefits in Austria, namely, unemployment assistance and social assistance. We scrutinized changes made to these benefits from 2000 onwards. To identify their (potentially changing) contributions towards social investment, we applied a framework that considers the economic aims of the paradigm (while neglecting other aims). According to this framework, a social investment benefit intends to improve the human capital of its recipients, enhance their employability, and/or enhance their employment integration. The findings suggest that the three elements of social investment were particularly relevant in reforming social assistance. However, the changes implemented were incoherent and do not support the hypothesis of an ever-increasing significance of social investment. The main triggers for reform were the political ideologies of (changing) governments. These ideologies determined the direction of changes made to both social assistance and unemployment assistance. If social investment thus ought to be more than just a theoretical concept or a nonbinding policy recommen dation, modifications made to welfare state benefits would need to follow a more coherent path. Regarding poor relief benefits, Austria has not pursued such a track (yet).

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article represents an output of a wider research project, funded by the Jubiläumsfonds of the Austrian National Bank, No. 16.258.
Keywords: Austria, poor relief, poverty, social assistance, social investment, unemployment assistance
Divisions: Departments > Sozioökonomie > Sozialpolitik
Forschungsinstitute > Verteilungsfragen
Version of the Document: Published
Depositing User: Gertraud Novotny
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2020 11:33
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 11:48
Related URLs:
FIDES Link: https://bach.wu.ac.at/d/research/results/96104/
URI: https://epub.wu.ac.at/id/eprint/7693

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