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Keywords:

  • welfare state;
  • religion;
  • secularisation;
  • new public management;
  • faith-based organisations

This article explores whether recent social and political developments have transformed religious organisations' involvement in welfare activities. Most developed countries have undergone a process of secularisation in which the religious attachments of major segments of society, and also certain state institutions, have weakened. In recent years, welfare state expansion has stalled and most welfare states have entered an ‘age of austerity’. Changes in the welfare state terrain – primarily restructuring – have transformed the opportunity structure faced by faith-based organisations. A survey of faith-based organisation involvement in welfare across four countries – England, Israel, Germany and the Netherlands – reveals a complex picture. While in some countries welfare state restructuring creates opportunities for faith-based organisations to expand their role, in others the combination of secularisation and restructuring create unfavourable conditions for these organisations.