The Belgian welfare state system

With special reference to “targeting within universalism”

Authored by: Bea Cantillon , Diana De Graeve , Natascha Van Mechelen

The Routledge International Handbook to Welfare State Systems

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781472449306
eBook ISBN: 9781315613758
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041085


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The recent history of the Belgian welfare state is in part shaped by widespread economic and social changes; in part it is the upshot of the unique set of assets, problems and potentials of its own architecture. Social needs as well as the possibilities and constraints to achieve more adequate social protection within advanced welfare states have changed quite dramatically in the past three decades due to many interacting factors: deindustrialization, skill-based technological change, intensified international competition, feminization of labor markets, declining household size and, more recently, aging and increasing health care needs. As a consequence of the institutional inertia associated with Bismarckian institutions and layered welfare states, the response of the Belgian social security system came rather late. Moreover, it was adapted to the national context. The strengthening of targeted elements in Belgian welfare provisions provides a clear illustration of institutionally bounded and contingent adaptation to new social risks. With a view to improving efficiency and containing cost, greater selectivity was imposed, but within the universal framework.

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