Since the 1990s in a wide range of western countries new long-term care policies were introduced to publicly support care for the elderly. Demographic changes, increasing labour market participation of women, urbanization and/or financing constraints in prevalent social policy schemes resulted in a gap between increasing care needs, declining family respectively female care provision, and available public funding. Characteristic for the new social policies is their universal orientation, however, mainly on a medium or basic level of public support. The latter means that only a part of the required care provision is publicly covered, while still a wide range of care activities are defined as a part of family – or private responsibility either as providers or at least as financiers. Continue reading
My recent visit to India coincided with the student protests that convulsed the nation. What was striking was not the scale of the agitation but the idea of India put forth by these young men and women seeking freedom, equality and justice has resonated with the people and altered the national discourse. In the words of a leading feminist writer, Nivedita Menon, they are “fighting for the soul of India.” Their youthful insurgency represents an indictment of the entrenched power system that is elitist, exploitative and devoid of concern for the disadvantaged. By energising the public debate on social justice, they have rattled the right wing BJP-led Government under whose watch there has been an assault on free speech, on concessions for the disadvantaged and on minority rights. Continue reading
Since 2008 the European Union has been in its, deepest economic and social crisis so far. There is a return of mass-unemployment and poverty; especially in Southern and Eastern Europe. Generally, social inequality is on the rise all over the member states. In this severe economic and social environment Austria is often presented as an exception, as one of the countries with the lowest unemployment rate in the EU (Eurostat calculation: 5%, national rate: 10%). Moreover, income inequality is much less pronounced than in other OECD countries and collective bargaining still covers about 90% of employees. While the relative success of the “Austrian Model” (Hermann/Atzmüller 2009) thus seems evident by international comparison, the outlined data tend to give an incomplete picture. Overarching indicators obscure an increasingly segmented and divided social structure. Therefore, a closer look at the social situation in Austria is necessary.
Economic development and trends on the labor market
The relative success of the “Austrian Model” in relation to its labor market performance, structures of social inequality and poverty rates are closely linked to the country’s economic position within the European Union and its severe economic imbalances which contributed to the crisis developments since 2008. Austria is – similarly to Germany – among the most export-oriented countries within the EU. But the viability of an export-oriented strategy is mostly based on a rather restrained development of wages and labor costs – especially if compared to other European countries –, negotiated under the Austrian system of social partnership.
In Austria – again similarly to Germany – the effect of wage moderation to foster exports was a considerable reduction of the wage share of GDP (by 15% to 20%, leaving a net wage share of the GDP of less than 60% since the early 1990s). The ratio between wage growth and productivity became more unequal in the last decades: Thus, since 1980 labor productivity increased far quicker than real wage rates. Eurostat data from 2013 shows that Austria is ranked on place 4 in terms of productivity within the EU countries. Continue reading