Comparative Welfare States
Across Western Europe and North America, countries have gradually developed their own
unique welfare states according to numerous factors including, the personal values of the electorate, the
nation’s leaders, and the distinctive economic and social situations of the country.
Although no two
nations have identical welfare states, there are enough similarities and differences among them that
allow them to be classified into three main types; social democratic, Christian democratic, and residual.
However, even though a country can be classified as one of these types, there are often many features or
statistics which do not strictly follow their classification.
These anomalies are usually the result of many
interdependent reasons that developed within each country over time.
However, a country can be
organized into one of these three by looking at aspects of the nation’s legislation and population
including; the political system, type of labor market, level of taxes, provided public services, degree of
gender equality, level of wealth redistribution, and extent of income equality.
In general, the residual
welfare state presents the least amount of government aid and intervention in the redistribution of wealth
and services, while the social democratic welfare state provides the most government involvement in the
strive for more social and economic equality.
Countries with a Christian democratic welfare state
usually have a balance of the two.
For each of these welfare states, one country can be said to be the purest example of the type for
which other countries can be compared.
The residual welfare state is exemplified by the United States,
and to a lesser extent Britain.
However, because control of British Parliament has switched back and
forth between the Labour and Conservative parties several times, irregularities such as a government run
healthcare system exist that make the country a less reliable comparison measure.
democratic welfare state is most exemplified by Germany, and the social democratic welfare state is best
emulated by Sweden.