Worlds of Welfare Services: From Discovery to Exploration



A recent thread of debate in social policy research has been the ‘discovery’ of welfare services. Previous comparative studies in this field have been largely erratic and have led to different results. This ambiguity is mainly due to flaws inherent in the data sets. In order to overcome these problems, this article uses an alternative approach of operationalizing welfare services. Employment patterns in the welfare sector provide a holistic picture of welfare services regarding quantity, kind, and organization. Cluster analysis leads to a four-cluster structure that bears high resemblance to the conventional welfare regime typology by Esping-Andersen and its subsequent advancements. These findings are set in the context of the welfare regimes literature in order to enhance our understanding of the functioning of welfare regimes. The study suggests that the ideological orientation of the welfare state is a good starting point for a holistic framework of welfare regimes combining the transfer and the service component.