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Keywords:

  • Policy feedback;
  • means-testing;
  • automatic enrolment;
  • austerity

Abstract

The welfare reforms of the Coalition government are marked by the legacy of Thatcherism. Social security reforms in the 1980s reshaped the system towards reliance on means-tested benefits. Negative policy feedback created by the opacity and perverse effects of means-testing has made these benefits an easy target for the Coalition, at least so far as working age people are concerned. Different policy feedbacks affect policy towards old age pensions. The government is locked into promoting private pensions, and is extending this commitment with automatic enrolment. To make private pensions pay, it has to reverse the slide to means-testing. The implication is that the pronounced bias against the working poor and in favour of older people in Coalition policy is not simply a matter of electoral preferences: rather, it reflects the political effects of previous policy decisions.