Farewell, welfare state – hello, welfare regions? Chances and constraints of welfare management in the German federal system

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The German welfare state is in crisis. Alarming long-term demographic trends, the still not fully digested consequences of German unification and the current economic downturn in much of the Eurozone have combined to create an urgent need for welfare reform. Yet the constitutional arrangements which govern the German political system, and well-entrenched political practice, mean that any such reform process is a daunting challenge. Thus, the welfare crisis is also a crisis of German-style co-operative federalism. Current empirical evidence makes for uncomfortable reading, and triggers debate on the nature of the German federation: have the two constitutional principles of federalism and establishing equal living conditions throughout the federation become mutually exclusive? However, as much of the welfare state is centred on the best utilisation of scarce financial resources, it is debatable to what extent alterations in the functional distribution of welfare responsibilities among the territorial levels of government can be regarded as a solution for the current problems. The article concludes that in the search for long-term sustainability of the welfare state the territorial dimension is likely to remain a secondary issue.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-65
Number of pages31
JournalGerman Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2003

Bibliographic note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in German Politics on 2003, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/10.1080/0964400032000242680


  • German welfare state, German political system, reform, federalism

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