Given the global, socio-demographic and fiscal challenges to welfare states, social policy reform is as pressing as it is difficult to achieve in today’s advanced economies and democratic systems. The study of the politics of social policy reform has become one of the key areas of research within international comparative welfare state analysis. Welfare state regimes or the specifics of social policy design, especially in Europe and OECD countries, are understood to result largely from political ‘choices’, albeit constrained by institutional legacies and political systems. Politicians advancing welfare reforms find that social policies are often very popular and organised interests defend acquired social rights. The analysis of the politics of social policy reform includes studies of the roles of policy-makers, organised interests, public opinion, and public discourse. These analyses are often comparative across countries and over time.
Key areas of research include the political economy of welfare state reform, in particularly the role of party politics, organised interests and public opinion in relation to social policy reforms. Research expertise includes in-depth knowledge of British, European, and OECD countries. Recent research has focused on occupational welfare (including business interests and corporate social responsibilities), ongoing pension privatisation and marketisation in Europe, and the role of public opinion and organised interests in social policy reforms in Britain and Germany. Questions of social citizenship, cohesion and resilience in different societies are also investigated. In addition, education policy and social investment strategies are studied in the relation to policy-making, governance and accountability. Advancing the comparative methods for cross-national welfare state analysis is also a long-standing concern of the research grouping (e.g. ESRC’s Cross-National Comparative Methods Research Initiative).