The GoWPER research project primary objectives are to analyse the scope of the transformations in the governance of the Spanish welfare state (territorial and the welfare mix) during the last two decades. Particular attention is paid to the contemporary historical period of the financial crisis. The project aims to identify the political explanatory factors behind the transformations and the implications of such transformations on the citizens and the workforce in the sector of social policy and the public administration.

During the three decades before the financial crisis, several states restructured the governance of their social protection systems searching for an improvement in the quality, efficiency or accessibility. Two dimensions of the welfare state’s governance were transformed. In regards to the territorial governance, social policies were decentralised towards the subnational level. Concerning the horizontal governance or welfare-mix, non-state actors in the third sector and private sector started to gain influence in the provision of healthcare, education and long-term care services since the 1980s.

Three decades since the transformations in the governance and after experiencing the worst economic crisis in contemporary times, the debate on the role of the state has returned to the fore. These debates in the national governments are producing changes in welfare state governance.

The governance of the welfare state in Spain is complex and appears to have changed profoundly during the economic crisis. In our previous research project about the Reform of the Welfare State (CRISAUT) we identified, on the one hand, the increasing role played by non-state actors as a mandate of central and subnational governments, and on the other hand, other governments have reversed these processes initiated before or during the crisis. The territorial governance has experienced transformations of (des) centralisation.

Despite these examples, we still have limited knowledge of the transformations in the governance that appears to be taking place during the crisis. What is the scope of the transformations? Why have they occurred? Are they a consequence of the economic crisis or other political factors (ideology of governments, pressure from public opinion or institutional factors)? Is the direct management of public services increasing/decreasing? Is there a reversal in the decentralization process of social policies started three decades ago? How do these changes affect the objectives pursued by social protection systems with citizens and workers? What challenges are facing public administrations with the transformations in the welfare state governance?

This research project will describe and explain the transformations in the governance of the Spanish welfare state in order to answer these questions. Both dimensions, the territorial and the welfare-mix, would be examined, along with the (de) commodification effects it might have caused. The project follows a mixed-method approach guided by process tracing in the analysis of five social policy sectors in five Spanish Autonomous Communities.

 

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