The TREfF-project has over a period of six years conducted a number of studies on social security arrangements: how they are designed and implemented and their effects. The project was designed in response to the question of why so many working age people receive social security benefits in contemporary Norway. To illuminate this issue the project has considered three main concerns in welfare policy: justice, efficiency and distribution. Through multiple disciplinary and methodological approaches the project has aimed to explore factors that affect labour supply, identified elements in implementation that affect goal attainment, but also critically approached the original problem formulation through comparative and normative analyses.
Comparative studies of welfare state generosity and its ability to reduce inequality provide an important supplement to analyses which concentrates on work incentives. There are tendencies to growing income inequality in most OECD-countries, and in many cases this trend is reinforced by cuts in social security. This appears paradoxical in the sense that conventional economic theory predicts that increase wage inequality will be accompanied by stronger demand for redistribution policies. In one study a theoretical model is developed which can explain why large groups of voters will prefer to cut public social security when wage inequality increases. This is tested on data from 22 OECD-countries. Results indicate that parties are more likely to cut welfare in periods of rising wage inequality.
TREfF has also studied how various factors in the labour market affect individuals' employment and social security consumption through analyzing Norwegian registry data. In sum these studies find that it is persons who are in a marginal position in the labour market that struggle the most to adapt to labour market changes (reorganization, closure etc) - also when economic conditions are generally good. Good times are not sufficient to mobilize these vulnerable people into the labour market, but must be supplemented by active measures and training. This may be particularly important in economics such as the Norwegian that place high demands on productivity. Studies also show that labour market participation is affected by social norms. Former studies have in particular looked at negative impacts of social norms on labour market supply, but our studies emphasize that both positive and negative "circles" can be maintained through norms.
In the early 2000s several scholars predicted that growing immigration would threaten European welfare states, partly because it cultural and religious diversity would weaken support for redistributive policies. One TREfF-study argues that a more likely effect of growing immigration is growing support for differentiated access to welfare benefits based on citizenship or time of residence. Another study shows that negative attitudes to the economic consequences of immigration increases with growing unemployment rates, while no such connection is found for a culturally based immigration resistance. Negative attitudes to immigration thus seem to be two-dimensional.
Project web-page: http://www.samfunnsforskning.no/Prosjekter/Samarbeidsprosjekter/TREfF
Social Security in Context. Fairness, Efficiency and Redistribution.
This project has three main objectives: 1) We want to produce high-quality social security research and publish internationally. 2) We want to recruit new researchers to the field and d evelop the thematic, disciplinary and methodological competences of our cross-disciplinary research team 3) By disseminating results from empirical studies and theoretical and normative reflections, we want to contribute to a more informed debate on socia l security reform in Norway. .
The focal point of the project is the classic dilemma between justice and efficiency. Balancing considerations for equality and income security on the one hand and work incentives and economic efficiency on the other is a demanding challenge both for policy makers and practitioners. Social Security in Context will produce knowledge about the effects of current policies, but also engage in principled discussions that are relevant for the development of new policies and new measures. It is a central premise for the project that social security arrangements and their effects can only be understood in a broader societal perspective where they interact with other welfare policies, labour market structures, firm behaviour, socia l norms, individual preferences and limitations, and the complexities of actual implementation.
Social Security in Context is built up by three main modules: 1) Institutions, policy and redistribution in a comparative perspective. Starting from the thesi s that "policy matters" we will study the politics, design and outcomes of different social security arrangements. 2) Local justice. This module starts from the assumption that gate keepers tend to promote passive income transfers rather than activation a nd self-sufficiency. 3) Employers and employees: When are incentives efficient? In this module we aim to explain adaptations and transitions for persons who are outside or on the margins of the labour market, taking account of conditions both on the deman d side and the supply side.
Social Security in Context will constitute an arena for coordinated research and dialogue between researchers and institutions with expertise on different aspects of social security.