The Centre for Comparative Welfare Studies (CCWS) is a multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to theoretical and empirical research on comparative social policy and welfare research. Our research focusses on the interplay between policy changes and broad developments such as ageing, globalization, and the impact on class, gender and ethnicity, based on a citizenship perspective. We have a long record of analysing variations in welfare architectures and the interplay with the labour market models and family structures.
The research is organized around the following topics.
1. The political and institutional dynamics of changing welfare states
The comparative welfare state field has been engaged in classifying countries into different welfare state clusters. However, it is widely recognized that the Western welfare state might be in process of fundamental changes in the benefit/service schemes. Therefore, CCWS has a continued focus on the institutional structures of European welfare states and the politics of changing welfare institutions. A number of scholars in the group work on these fundamental questions next to the more topical research within specific areas. This area serves as an overall theoretical interest in welfare state development, which link the research effort of all members.
2. Welfare states, values and norms
The welfare state is a place of normative conflicts and value compromises. CCWS views the welfare state in terms of citizenship. The ideal of citizenship connects to values and norms such as equality, freedom, dignity, welfare, solidarity, inclusion and care as well as rights of a civil, social and political kind. Both citizens and institutions can be carriers of such values and norms. Institutions are central to protect the freedom, dignity, equality and welfare of citizens and to empower and support the capabilities of citizens. CCWS conducts research into specific institutions, practices and policies where these values and norms are reproduced, challenged, repressed and justified.
3. Analysing welfare policies
Welfare policies include a variety of areas such as social benefits and services, employment and unemployment, gender equality, family, ethnic integration. CCWS explores the role of actors, structures and institutions in shaping these policies and focus on policy dynamics over time. A central question is to which degree Europeanization has had and has an impact on national policies, and to which degree Denmark and the Nordic countries are subject to a process of judicialization, where international and national courts and judges that have traditionally played a modest role in shaping welfare policies at the national level, obtain a more important role.
4. Welfare systems, ageing societies, senior citizens and pension systems
Demographic change constitutes one of the fundamental challenges of current welfare states. CCWS is conducting research on all aspects. This includes, not least, the causes and effects of early and extended retirement, seen in the light of new policies aiming at extending working lives. Some of the central research questions are 1) why seniors leave the labour market before reaching the age of retirement – or remain at the labour market after ordinary retirement age and 2) what are the consequences, from a citizenship, social and health inequality perspective? To what extent are pension systems economically sustainable, do they facilitate continued labour market participation, and what implications do pension systems and elderly care have for equality and citizenship?
5. Welfare systems, citizenship and ethnic diversity
The integration of ethnic minorities continues to top the political agenda across Europe. The public concern is not just about segregation, inequality, unemployment and educational attainment, but also about cultivating the identities, attitudes and values - across both the majority population and ethnic minorities - that form a foundation for the welfare state marked by ethnic diversity. CCWS contributes with research, from different disciplinary and methodological perspectives, that address these concerns and challenges. The research can be grouped under two broad headings: (1) the challenge of immigration to the social cohesion of the welfare state; (2) the effect of welfare state institutions, immigration policies and street-level practices on immigration and the incorporation of immigrants and their descendants.
6. Welfare systems and regional dynamics and disparities
Alongside increasing social inequality, many societies have also experienced larger social and economic inequality across regions – and increasing social segregation within the large cities. Even though the Nordic welfare states are characterized by a high level of economic redistribution across municipalities, increasing regional disparities are also observable in the Danish welfare state. Catalyzed by tendencies towards populist protest in disadvantaged peripheral areas, the relationship between regional and social inequality has obtained high priority in the international research community. In a comparative perspective, CCWS aims to elucidate and disentangle the sources of regional disparities, the relationship between regional and social inequality, the possibility for changing the dynamics, and the implications for welfare.
7. The governance of welfare state reforms and organizational frontline dynamics on the ground
CCWS seeks to strengthen empirical as well as theoretical insights on how policies are governed and constructed on the ground and the implications hereof for inhabitants in society. Of particular interest is how frontline organizations of the welfare state, operating at the interface between the state and individuals, implement and construct policies on the ground. Put simply, individuals do not directly experience "the state" or its "policies;" rather it is through everyday interactions in on-the-ground organizations that individuals encounter the state and its policies. Moreover, frontline organizations are not only crucial for delivering social welfare to the people, they are also crucial for how people experience the state, politics and democracy.
8. Welfare systems in China
The development of the Chinese welfare state is becoming a central topic in modern comparative welfare state research. Modernization in China has brought new family structures and a demographic transition, which increases the need for service production previously undertaken by the family. These social challenges constitute a driving force behind new pension schemes, social assistance schemes, unemployment benefits schemes etc. CCWS research interests are focused on demographic changes, including fertility and ageing, welfare benefits and services and citizenship. Within these topics the comparative approach is prominent, particularly the Sino-Nordic perspective. China proves an interesting case for traditional theories and approaches in comparative welfare state research and CCWS aims to uncover new theoretical and empirical insights within Chinese welfare state development.
9. Sustainable welfare systems.
Environmental sustainability requires limiting emissions, resource consumption and land use on a planetary scale. CCWS is committed to analyse policies to achieve sustainability transform welfare systems, and how welfare systems by themselves may enable a sustainable transition. Redistribution and financing of social expenditures might be eroded by environmental reform without attention to welfare concerns. On the other hand, public welfare provision and redistribution may be key to combining social and environmental sustainability, just as inequality and social polarization may fuel continued environmental degradation. For instance, public attitudes, legitimacy and conflict present one of the sociological mechanisms through which me may build new virtuous cycles, or fail to break old vicious cycles, between welfare and the environment. In general, the challenge of living within the means of the planet may inspire us to rethink traditional welfare state concepts such as risks, citizenship, rights, inequality and stratification.