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ZSR 2024; 70(2):145-172

Benedikt Bender und Laura Malsch

Political Conflict within Social Policy between 2017–2021 in Germany. A Content Analysis of Parliamentary Speeches and Press Releases.

From Journal of Social Policy Research
https://doi.org/10.1515/zsr-2023-0019

Abstract
The study extends research on welfare state reform amongst political parties, unions and employer associations. We show that social compensation measures reflect traditional political and class-based divides (right vs. left and union vs. employer). By contrast, social investments receive cross-class support with the exception of the right-wing populist party (AfD), which opposes e. g., equal opportunities for women at work. The results are based on a systematic content analysis of the minutes of 21 parliamentary plenary sessions and 323 press releases (2017–2021). Two implications emerge from the study. Firstly, the importance of the theoretical distinction between social compensation and social investments within social policy. Secondly, we demonstrate evidence of broad support for social investment policies despite different motivations amongst the actors. This consensus helps to explain the recent expansion of social investments in Germany and leads us to expect that further social investment reforms are likely in the near future.
Short summary
Bender, Benedikt and Malsch, Laura (2024): Politische Konflikte in der Sozialpolitik zwischen 2017–2021 in Deutschland: Eine Inhaltsanalyse von Plenardokumenten und Pressemitteilungen. Zeitschrift für Sozialreform, 70, 2, 145-172. https://doi.org/10.1515/zsr-2023-0019
Introduction The conflict and different attitudes of the German government coalition can be followed almost daily in the media. However, divergent attitudes amongst liberal, social democratic and green parties are not new. They were the basis for welfare state expansion (in particular, de-commodification measures) after WWII against the backdrop of ongoing class conflict. Welfare state expansion has rapidly changed its focus towards social investments, and we argue in this article that the change can be explained by cross class consensus based on different motivational perspectives in the context of social investment reforms.
Social Policy Reforms
We classified social compensation reforms in relation to de-commodification. There are four levels: (1) unemployment benefits, (2) minimum child-care allowance (against poverty) (3) minimum pension scheme (against poverty in old age) (4) other social benefits. Here we expect unreconcilable class conflict between different actors. We classified social investment reforms in relation to the creation, mobilization, and preservation of human capital: (1) child care service (2) incentives for female employment, (3) gender equality at work, (4) active labor market policies. Here we expect cross-class alliances since these reforms are compatible with the different motivational perspectives amongst actors.
Case Selection, Method and Data

We selected Germany because it is a late comer in the expansion of social investments. However, the fast shift towards more social investment in the last 15 years is unique within Europe. We argue that this is rooted in cross-class consensus for social investment reforms despite motivational differences. We use systematic content analysis of the minutes of 21 parliamentary plenary sessions and 323 press releases (2017-2021). All political parties were represented in the German Bundestag, the national trade union organization (DGB) as well as the national employer association (BDA).

Plenarprotokolle
Results
As expected, we show classic conflict between left and right, and between labour and capital regarding social compensation. Left-wing actors (Linke, SPD, Grüne) support the expansion of social compensations, whilst conservative (CDU/CSU), liberal (FDP) and right-wing populist (AfD) parties oppose them. For social compensation there is no cross-class consensus because different motivations lead to conflicting positions on social policy.
Politische Konflikte Grafik 1
By contrast, there is indeed clear cross-class consensus for social investments among left wing, conservative and liberal parties with just one exception: The right wing populist party (AfD) is the only part to oppose gender equality opportunities for women at work.
Politische Konflikte Grafik 2
For example: Cross-class consensus exists amongst actors regarding childcare services. Left-wing actors support child care services in order to create equal opportunities for women in the labour market. For liberals and conservatives, the main motivation to address the shortage of skilled workers in the workforce by relieving mothers of childcare responsibilities. This shows that consensus is possible when different motivations still lead to overlapping interests.
Conclusion and Outlook
To understand social policy positions, we need to distinguish between social compensation and investment, since different patterns of conflict and overlapping interests are possible. There is more potential for overlapping interests amongst actors with regard to social investment measures. This leads us to expect an expansion of such reforms in the near future. Due to new fiscal constraints in an increasingly crisis-ridden world, government need to set clear priorities for social policy reform and ensure that all actors are motivated to support them.

 

Bookcover E La Nave Va
In view of the frequently stated "polycrisis", it seems that not only Italy and Italy and Germany themselves seem to be in crisis, but also their relationship to each other. Indeed, questions of economic and economic and financial policy as well as international migration are increasinglleading to disgruntlement in German-Italian relations, while whereas solidarity prevailed during the Covid crisis. And the ship is still at sea - e la nave va! But where the journey will take us and whether the ship is seaworthy, an international group of scientists group of scientists from Italy and Germany discussed in the fall of 2021, including a including a largergroup from our professorship including Professor Wagemann as co-organizer of the workshop in close collaboration with Villa Vigoni. The various contributions, especially from young academics, have now been published in book form published in book form, under the editorship of Claudius Wagemann and his colleagues Ton Notermans, Simona Piattoni and Luca Verzichelli. Frankfurt contributions are by Lukas Brenner, Nikolaus Freimuth, Alexander Mathewes, Mohamed Salhi and Nils Sartorius.

 

15.11.2023 14:08

More Methods

Introduction to the methods of empirical social research
This semester, the introductory methods course is once again filling two lecture halls every week. Our team of tutors and organizational support has been correspondingly large in parts for several semesters, with George Ajouri, Anna Geyer, Christopher Hain, Mica Himmeldirk, Jonathan Schaffert, Jim Stegmann and, last but not least, Claudius Wagemann joining us for the first time

"Methodentreff" for further exchang
After we have already tested other formats in addition to the lecture in the online semesters, the Methodentreff will stand on its own two feet from this semester onwards.
Anyone who would like to exchange ideas with like-minded friends of methods is cordially invited. We recently met for the second monthly meeting and talked to interested students about our ideas on framing and approaches to research. We are excited to see how the still somewhat experimental evening meetings develop.
If you are interested, have any suggestions or ideas, please send a short email to brinck@soz.uni-frankfurt.de

 

01.10.2023 10:00

New Semester. New Team.

We welcome 4 student employees to our team for the new semester: Maria Halloran, Jonathan Schaffert, Jim Stegmann and Alessandro-Daniel Tedesco. Mica Himmeldirk is also returning to us.

Maria Halloran is working on the DFG project "Smart Authoritarianism? Comparing the Internet Strategies of Authoritarian Regimes" and is a tutor for the course "Introduction to Comparative Democracy" Jonathan Schaffert is responsible for the communication and coordination of the students of our introductory course "Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung". Mica Himmeldirk and Jim Stegmann each give two tutorials in the same course. Alessandro-Daniel Tedesco takes on various tasks in our research projects and the organization of our activities.

Welcome!

 

08.09.2023 10:00

​ECPR General Conference

At this year's General Conference of the "European Consortium for Political Research" (ECPR), two team members were represented: Seraphine F. Maerz and Daria Glukhova. Seraphine F. Maerz, along with Lisa Garbe from WZB, chaired an entire section on Digital Authoritarianism (a total of 7 panels on the topic) and presented two papers herself. Daria Glukhova presented the paper titled "Failure to Reform the EU Migration and Asylum Rules: Explaining Divergent Member State Decisions on the CEAS Reform." The ECPR General Conference is Europe's largest annual gathering of political scientists from across the globe.