Passive austerity: Hidden welfare state change in East Central Europe
PERG seminar with Kristin Makszin (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
Abstract / This paper introduces the concept of “passive austerity,” which refers to the deterioration of welfare state benefit levels without major reform and positions it in relationship to related concepts from the blame avoidance literature. Passive austerity consists of less visible reductions to real benefit levels, which can be due to lack of adjustment for inflation or decreases in maximum benefit levels. After summarizing a concrete way of measuring passive austerity, I use fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to analyze the conditions under which governments tend to rely on passive austerity. The empirical basis of this paper relies on case study work on family and pension policy in Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia from 1990-2015. The main finding is that the governments most likely to use passive austerity are those that also support fiscal retrenchment. This suggests that passive austerity is not primarily used by governments seeking to avoid blame. Furthermore, in contrast to the ‘new politics of the welfare state’ literature (Pierson 2001), this suggest that partisan effects on welfare state change remain significant, even in less studied forms of welfare state change.
Discussant / Alexandru Moise