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The Politics of Ideas in Reforming the Dutch Disability Fund

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Abstract

This article looks at the long struggle to reform the Dutch disability insurance fund, which covered close to 10% of the labor force in 2002. Ideas played a strategic role in the framing and discourse of the policy reforms. A template propagated by the European Commission was used by center-left reform advocates to soften a neoliberal campaign to overhaul the disability insurance scheme. Center-left politicians used European deliberations to convince their colleagues to accept increased spending on activation programs rather than rely on rounds of cutbacks. Labor market activation also resonated with voters, for very different reasons. Voters in the 2000s rallied around activation in order to bar ethnic minorities from taking advantage of the disability program. By the time that the disability law was repealed in 2006, many voters had altered their minds about the disability fund, resenting the fact that “problematic” minorities lived off welfare state benefits.

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