Crystal ball


How European welfare states will develop is hard to predict. People’s current aspirations, ideas and assumptions will be important drivers of change and persistence and of the extent to which conflict and solidarity surround change.

We will examine the aspirations, assumptions and priorities that govern the ideas of ordinary people about the future development of welfare in Europe.

Much current research is essentially backward-looking. Projections of how welfare states will develop are based largely on analysis of relevant factors such as population ageing, pension and health care costs, changing demands for labour, immigration rates, future spending on human services, global economic developments or the costs of reducing carbon emissions. This approach assumes that the future will follow the patterns of the past.

WelfSOC is forward-looking. It examines aspirations for the future, the assumptions underlying current patterns of attitudes, the strength with which positions are held, the arguments used to support them and the emerging cleavages and solidarities between different groups. These factors will be key drivers in the unfolding of the politics of welfare and in shaping the way in which welfare states respond to current policy development and to future pressures.


WelfSOC addresses the following three questions:


  • RQ1: What are the aspirations of ordinary citizens when they look to the future of state welfare in their children’s Europe, what are their priorities and how strongly are they held? How are preferences justified?
  • RQ2: What assumptions and values underlie the pattern of aspirations? How do people understand the factors driving change? How do fiscal and other constraints enter into people’s views on the welfare state?
  • RQ3: How does the changing social, political and economic context of welfare policy interact with people’s expectations and attitudes? What cleavages and solidarities are emerging?