Due to historical reasons different types of welfare structures developed. Beside the general understanding of a welfare state there have also been significant differences in welfare provision regarding the German and the English system. We first consider the German welfare state and than the English before we compare and contrast the extend of provision with regard to unemployment benefits and health care.
The German welfare state was first implemented during the Bismarck era, who implemented the idea of a social state, and was further developed in the background of a ´social market economy´ during the time after the Second World War. That provision system was and still is dependent on economic development and further social benefits are income-related.
One can say that the modern English welfare state, as it exists now a days, had its hour of birth after the Second World war in the background of comprehensive amendments. Citizens became entitled to certain rights due to the set up of the National insurance, which covered for benefits in case of health, unemployment and disability (BBC) financed out of taxation.
Summing up, the English welfare state consists of three main elements namely the guarantee of minimum standards, which include a minimum income, social protection and the provision of services at the best possible level.
After roughly considering both country's welfare structure we now consider the main similarities and differences regarding the extent of welfare provision.
The English welfare provision is financed through taxation in comparison to the German earnings-related provision. On the one hand it is less generous and less redistributive as the German provision (at the moment) but on the other hand coverage among the people is more spread out as in Germany. In England the provision mainly aims to alleviate poverty. The extend to which the welfare provision in the UK is provided is also characterized by a weaker labour movement, which was implemented during the time when Margaret Thatcher was in power, and the stronger liberal parties.
The main differences concerning the health care provision are the spending on health care and the structure of spending. According to the ´Anglo- German Foundation Report´ Germany has the third most expansive health care with 10.7% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in the world whereas England spends "only" 7.6%. Furthermore, Germany's health system is financed by contribution, that means employers and employees pay for insurances (health, unemployment etc.). England's health system is financed out of taxation and is more centralized by the state, which funds care providers.
With regard to unemployment benefits English in comparison with German efforts are more effective what figures show. In the UK the unemployment rate was halved within 10 years from 10% to approximately 4.6%1, whereas Germany has currently a rate of round about 10.3%2 with a rising tendency.
This is a cause of the different extent of provisions. The English provision is lower than the German as already mentioned. The endeavour to bring back people faster in jobs due to a more flexible labour market shows that lower provision is not an disadvantage but helps to lower unemployment in the UK.
What conclusions can be drown from the above with regard to the appropriacy in the early twenty first century? To answer the question whether the provision is appropriate or not we have to take in account various factors. Originally, the welfare provision was set up to support people in difficult situations, as we discussed in the introduction.
In those times, when people were considering those new ideas of welfare provision, this kind of security among other reasons was required to preserve social freedom. Thus, the question arises whether the circumstances have changed so drastically in the twenty first century. The answer to this question is in my opinion no. We still have to deal with similar problems as they have existed in the past. These problems still comprises unemployment, health, child care and the other already mentioned subgroups. Additionally, to these already existing problems, other serious challenges have arisen in this context, what makes welfare provision needed more than before. These challenges consist of the changes in the general economic context since 1970s, international factors and state internal factors.
Both in England and in Germany serious amendments have been made since 1970s to adopt to the new circumstances of lower economic growth and rising unemployment.
One of the more influencing challenges is the international factor, which can be split into globalisation, international competition and European integration.
All of these, according to Mishra, "limits the capacity of states to act for social protection". Furthermore, she mentions that "Global trends have been associated with a strong neo-liberal ideology....representing social protection as the source of ´rigidity´ in the labour market". In other words governmental power, which is transferred away from Germany or England to bigger becoming international institutions, e.g. the EU, makes it hard for the single state to provide it citizens with the necessary welfare provision.
Furthermore, England as well as Germany has to deal with structural problems. This includes demographical changes and new family and gender relationships. For instance, the German birth rate is slowing down and the role of the family has changed over the decades. Both states have to adopt its welfare structures to these circumstances. As long as states have to deal with social problems, as discussed, welfare provision will be needed.
We have seen the differences between the German and the English welfare state and examined that the extend to which both states provides for provision differs. As a result we can say that problems have hardly changed and new challenges have to be dealt with. Welfare provision is a fundamental part of a state and therefore necessary because it provides social freedom. As long as social inequality exists states as Germany and England have to provide appropriate provision in the light of changing circumstances.
Word count ´Evaluation of the appropriacy of the provision: 374
Total word count: 1.318
* Anglo-German Foundation. (09/10/2003). Modernising the British and German health care systems - what can we learn from one another. Retrieved December 27, 2004, from http://www.agf.org.uk/pubs/pdfs/ES1445e.pdf
* BBC. Poverty and welfare. Retrieved December 27, 2004, 2004, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/education/bitesize/higher/modern/uksociety/income_wealth1_rev.shtml
* Claudia Braczko. (20/09/2004). Arbeitsmarktreformen in England und Deutschland. Retrieved December 28, 2004, from http://idw-online.de/pages/de/news85895
* IWB online. (23/09/1996). Kohl government axes German welfare state. Retrieved December 26, 2004, from http://www.wsws.org/public_html/prioriss/iwb9-23/kohl.htm
* Pieter van Houten. (10/11/ 2004). The welfare state in crisis?. Retrieved December 27, 2004, from http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/~pjv24/pol4-handout-I9.htm
* The Robert Gordon University. An introduction to social policy. Retrieved December 27, 2004, from http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/publicpolicy/
1 21/11/04 (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/)
2 21/11/04 (http://www.destatis.de/indicators/d/arb210ad.htm)
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