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Danish Center for Welfare Studies

The German Welfare State

Author: Peter Starke
: In: Klaus Larres, Holger Moroff, Ruth Wittlinger (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of German Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022, 304-23.

The chapter sketches the transformation of the German welfare state since reunification. Its central thesis is that while the ‘shell’ of the social insurance system remains visible, it has been hollowed out and does not deliver the same level of security as it used to. Policy drift and deliberate reforms have reduced its ability to counteract the strongly inegalitarian trends in society and in Germany’s liberalized political economy. The traditional goal of status security has been partly replaced by minimum protection and ‘social investment’. This development is traced in a loosely chronological way, through several reform episodes dealing, respectively, with the challenge of reunification, mass unemployment, demographic change, rising female labour market participation and, finally, the management of a series of exogenous shocks since 2008. The chapter also asks to what extent the German welfare state delivers on key social outcomes.


Access the chapter here.