Weathering the Crisis? Adjusting Welfare States in Eastern Europe after the Crisis of 2008
This project focused 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 investigated the welfare-state adjustments that followed the crisis of 2008. The main research question was as follows: How did the welfare regimes in Eastern Europe respond to the economic crisis and what explained variations in welfare state adjustments?
The project employed a multilevel research design, including a qualitative macro-comparison of reform processes in selected countries, quantitative analyses of the public opinion and stages of the reform, and comparative case studies on the company level. The research design reflected a broad definition of the welfare regime. Particular attention was given to the key aspects of East European systems of social protection: the pension systems, redistribution through personal income tax, and labour law and industrial relations on the company level.
The diverse impacts of the crisis have confirmed that the transformations have led neither to a convergence towards one of the European models nor to a rise of a single ‘post-communist capitalism’. The post-2008 transition of the welfare state in Central and Eastern Europe was marked by a return to more conventional welfare state reforms, departing from the paradigmatic/systemic changes carried out in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The economic and financial crisis of the late 2000s and 2010s thus challenged the developmental model relying on the marketization and privatization of the welfare state, the withdrawal of the state and the curtailment of its redistributive capacity.
The macro-economic shocks triggering reform adjustments proved to be the main economic variable shaping the development of welfare regimes in the region. The actual variation in outcomes was forged in a contextual interaction of political regimes, pressures from international organizations, structure of the party competition, public opinion, and social learning among the policy makers. The differences in production regimes that characterized individual countries had relevance on the company level, but the outcomes were also largely shaped by contextual and agency factors, with national industrial relations institutions playing only a weak role.