Weathering the Crisis? Adjusting Welfare States in Eastern Europe after the Crisis of 2008
This project focuses on the key features of capitalist diversity in Eastern Europe: the differences in the systems of social protection and their political and economic determinants. In particular, it investigates the welfare-state adjustments that followed the crisis of 2008. The main research question is: How have the welfare regimes in Eastern Europe responded to the economic crisis and what explains variations in welfare state adjustments? The diverse impacts of the crisis have confirmed that the post-communist transformations have led neither to a convergence towards one of the European models nor to a rise of a single ‘post-communist capitalism’. Existing research has shown large differences between country groups both in economic structures and in social provision. The differences in production systems and the worlds of welfare appear to be linked, constituting distinct varieties of welfare capitalism. What remains to be understood is what explains the apparent coupling of economic and welfare-state structures. The crisis of 2008 has been followed by attempts at welfare reforms. These might change our understanding of the differences between country groups in Eastern Europe. At the same time, the processes of adjustment allow identifying the political and economic constraints and opportunities that condition the variety of welfare states in the individual countries. Going beyond the political economy of transition, this study employs a framework that draws on the conceptual frameworks developed in the study of advanced capitalist countries to understand the political and economic factors conditioning the welfare state outcomes in Eastern Europe.
Research activities in 2012 involved primarily data collection. To this end, interviews were conducted with actors involved in social-policy making in six East-European countries. Moreover, secondary data was collected on all countries under consideration. Results from the early stage of the project were disseminated through journal articles and conference presentations. The project received outside recognition from the International Monetary Fund. The latter invited project researchers to contribute to a 2013 conference on pension reforms and to present the findings in an edited volume to be published by the Fund.