Individual elements of social security systems cannot be cherry-picked

International experiences related to the Social Security 2030 Project

How does the Universal Credit work in the UK? What does participation mean in the context of the Dutch social security system? What impact have the Hartz reforms had in Germany? These are some of the questions addressed at the international seminar held on 27 September.

Of special interest to the participants were the experiences gained from minimum benefits, sanctions applied within the social security system and the implementation of reforms. While countries and systems vary, the issues raised were very similar irrespective of the country involved. Even so, the choices made are very much influenced by the national system, culture and level of technology. At the same time, many of the solutions can be traced back to historical reasons: previous developments and interdependencies affect the reforms undertaken.

The discussions showed clearly how difficult it was to compare national systems with one another. Picking and choosing between individual good practices does not work, because large systems differ from one another and the same solution in a different setting may lead to a different outcome. For example, the support provided for young people is based on completely different premises in the individual countries depending on the educational system, the extent of the financial responsibility of parents and the benefits a youth is entitled before learning a trade. The German social security system, for instance, specifies different conditions and levels of support for those under 25. The situation in Germany and the Hartz reform were presented at the seminar by Professor Wolfgang Schroeder. Another topic that inspired deliberations was the Dutch participatory society model focusing on the relationship between participation, activity and work, all issues also debated in Finland. According to Assistant Professor Minna van Gerven, the definition and implementation of participation is very much left to municipalities, which results in a lot of variation.

Another big theme in the debate was the challenge posed by social security reforms and the period of time they require. Decision making and legislative drafting alone are extensive processes. Actual implementation often runs into technical problems or leads to unexpected outcomes that need to be adjusted to the original model. Professor Jane Millar reported that several adjustments were made to the British Universal Credit model while it was already being implemented.

The speakers follow the preparations being made for the social security reform and will be able to comment on the options proposed in the context of the Social Security 2030 Project as further progress is made.

The seminar organised by the Toimi Project in collaboration with the University of Helsinki on 27 September offered information on the experiences gained from social security reforms in three very different countries as well as research findings. The British Universal Credit model was presented by Professor Jane Millar, the Dutch social security system by Assistant Professor Minna van Gerven and the German Hartz reform by Professor Wolfgang Schroeder.

From welfare state to participation society
Hartz IV  ̶  Publicly subsidized employment, further training or an unconditional basic income?

Jane Millar’s Kela Lecture:
Universal Credit: the UK’s new working-age benefit 

Advance material:
Universal Credit in the United Kingdom
Social security model in the Netherlands
Hartz IV in Germany