The policy configurations of 'welfare states' and women's role in the workforce in advanced industrial societies
Comparative political economy studies of welfare states have focused on either general processes of modernization or the evolution of different welfare state 'regimes' - such as the social democratic, liberal and conservative types identified by Esping-Andersen. Variations in women's role in the workforce tend to be seen as closely allied with 'welfare regime' types or associated with welfare state modernization. But there are relatively few empirical studies in the political economy field of how, within the overall policy configuration of the state, welfare policies influence women's labour force participation. First, using a quantitative analysis of country-level data for 17 OECD countries from 1960 to 1987, this study identifies clusters of countries consistent with the Esping-Andersen classification, which share distinct patterns of women's role in the workforce and have different paths of development over time. However, the analysis shows that important anomalies exist and key questions remain unresolved. Second, case studies are used to analyse policy configurations and developments in women's employment over time. 'Core' examples are drawn from each main welfare regime - the USA (liberal), Sweden (social democratic) and Germany (conservative). The Netherlands is examined as a key anomalous case. Third, the lessons from the empirical analyses are used to reconsider aspects of the 'social democratic' and 'modernization' models of welfare state development. Across the period as a whole female labour force participation has grown in most countries. The most rapid growth of women's involvement has taken place in core countries with either liberal or social democratic welfare configurations (the USA and Sweden). There has been less change in 'conservative' countries (such as Germany) and in the Netherlands despite its 'social democratic' classification. Yet apparent linkages between labour market trends and welfare policies do not necessarily stand up to close over-time or comparative analysis. In the USA there are only weak connections between welfare policies and women's changing role in the labour market, whereas the two factors are closely and directly linked in Sweden. Particular policies contributed to expanding women's employment in Germany, but the overall policy configuration has bolstered broader patterns of social stratification inimical to women playing a larger role. In the Netherlands, welfare policies have clearly restrictive effects on women's participation in job markets, although some growth has occurred since the 'welfare explosion' of the 1960s. These findings show that welfare states' impacts on women's employment do not fit neatly into the 'modernization' or 'social democratic' models. 'One path fits all' models perform particularly poorly, but even differentiated analyses of 'welfare state regimes' pay insufficient attention to the location of social welfare within the state's overall policy configuration. A clearer distinction between the 'welfare state' construed as form of state and as a particular sector of state activity can help comparative analysis eliminate the residual influence of 'one-path' models, and provide more compelling analyses of variations in women's employment trajectories.