Between corporatism and lobbyism German welfare associations in transition.

Author:Toens, Katrin
  1. Introduction

    The German welfare state is dependent on the multiple functions and task fulfilment of large welfare associations. Organised welfare did not only impact on the historical development and institutional shape of the welfare state, it still assumes key functions to the advantage of state and society. These functions range from social service provision to advocacy interest representation (2) to the supply for organisational support to numerous self-help groups and voluntary activities on a grass roots level. Given this, the welfare associations have become part of a unique arrangement of welfare corporatism. Welfare corporatism traditionally rests on a political exchange relationship with the state. The state provides for funding and a protective legal status in exchange for the welfare associations reliable task fulfilment in many areas of the welfare state. For the welfare associations this development does not only imply benefits, it also involves political costs. The high level of integration into the system of public welfare limits their political autonomy vis-a-vis the state. Given this, advocacy interest representation has often become subjugated to the social service function. Against this background, recent processes of state transformation and the Europeanisa-tion of social politics are examined with regard to their impact on interest mediation in corporatist settings. The main argument is that both these developments have contributed to the emergence of welfare markets that favour a more flexible arrangement of welfare lobby-ism. Even though, this change does not suggest the dissolution of welfare corporatism, it signals a shift in the modes of interest representation. In the context of an increasingly insecure and competitive environment the welfare associations are leaving the corporatist niche. They adopt to the absence of corporatist structures in European politics by using offensive lobbying strategies as a means to emphasise their non-profit charitable engagement and political partnerships with society and the state. This profile is stressed in order to positively distinguish their organisational self-understanding from commercial service provision and to preserve welfare corporatism and the competitive advantage of their unique legal status that derives from it.

    The argument is developed in three steps. After a brief overview over the organisational shape and historical development of organised welfare, the second section examines the welfare associations' core functions of social service provision and advocacy interest representation in the context of welfare corporatism. Section three discusses recent contributions on welfare state transformation from the perspectives of policy analysis and research on associations (Verbandefor-schung). It presents theoretical insight and empirical evidence with regard to the issue of how state processes of self-transformation negatively affect welfare corporatism. Section four complements the analytic framework from the perspective of recent literature on Europeanisation, understood as the impact of advanced European integration on domestic politics. The application of a distinct concept of Europeanisation provides the basis for tackling the issue of how advanced mechanisms of European social policy-making, ranging from the open method of coordination to the EU Services Directive, affect welfare corporatism.

  2. The tasks and functions of welfare associations in the welfare state

    Charitable associations in Germany have grouped themselves in six central organisations, the German Caritas Association, the Welfare Services of the Protestant Church in Germany, the Association of Non-affiliated Charities, the Worker's Welfare Services, the German Red Cross, and the Central Welfare Agency of the Jews in Germany. Together these associations constitute Non-statutory welfare, covering all forms of social assistance that are provided within a voluntary non-profit and organised framework.

    The welfare associations are complex organisations with a large bureaucracy and a constant exchange relationship with their various environments, formed by their member organisations, the state, competing organisations, close associates, clients and the public. German federalism provides for the division of regional, district level and local associations. Differences in size, ideological background, membership profile and affiliation not only influence the strategic choices of single welfare associations (Nahrlich and Zimmer 1997), they also determine their various tasks and functions and its relevance to national social policy. Beyond these differences, however, the welfare associations share a high degree of ideological and organisational coherence, professionalism and bureaucratic accountability as well as the ability to function throughout the entire geographic territory of the nation state and in all areas of social welfare. Based on these features they work together within their legal amalgamation and organisational mouthpiece, the Federal Association of Non-statutory Welfare.

    The tasks and functions of Non-statutory welfare in the welfare state comprise a broad range of social assistance measures. These include services for children and youth, support for families and single parents, help for the elderly, services for people with disabilities, nursing care for patients in hospitals, measures for migrants, and assistance for people facing situations of social distress. Non-statutory welfare represents a significant social and economic factor in Germany. Its central associations employ over 1.16 million staff, they count just over 94,000 social services and facilities, they receive the support of an estimated 2.5-3 million volunteers, and they organise over 28,000 self-help and help groups (Federal Association of Non-statutory welfare 2003: 13).

    The welfare associations look back over a tradition that is--in some cases--over a century old. Their organisational structure developed from a history of interaction with the state and civil society. As intermediate organisations they have to manoeuvre between politics and society as well as the tensions resulting from their different demands. The relationship between welfare associations and the state in Germany is best described as political exchange in corporatist settings. While the state provides financial support and allows for political influence, welfare associations serve as reliable social service providers on a non-profit basis. They offer information, and they protect the state from radical political protest against social inequality by means of channelling and pacifying civil society involvement into the welfare system. Since welfare associations relief the state by taking on indispensable governing functions, they can profit from a unique legal status in the charity and foundation law, securing them various kinds of public funding. Funds range from tax reduction based on charitable benefit and the donation of privilege to investment aid for the construction of buildings and financial assistance for companies.

    Welfare corporatism in Germany dates back to the Weimar Republic. The involvement of the central state in the regulation and financing of local welfare gave rise to an institutional mix of non-statutory and public social work, called the dual system of Non-statutory welfare (Tennstedt 1992: 354; Backhaus-Maul and Olk 1994: 102). Based on the principle of subsidiarity, the welfare associations enjoy a conditional priority compared to public bodies. The political pressure behind this arrangement came from catholic civil servants, who saw the principle of subsidiarity as a protective barrier against the nationalisation of social policy. Ironically, by successfully pushing the principle of subsidiarity they initiated an indirect mechanism of nationalisation, namely the nationalisation of the welfare associations through corporatism.

    The unique corporatist arrangement the principle of subsidiarity gave rise to serves as a point of reference for the welfare associations self-perception as a third social partner. However, significant differences between macro-and meso-corporatism should not be ignored. Welfare corporatism is a meso-corporatist arrangement with sector-specific structures of interrelations between state and associations in the policy fields of health, social assistance, and youth. The corporatist arrangement even involves the communal level, (3) where the welfare associations are automatically represented in the committee of youth affairs. In contrast to the macro-corporatist focus on the solution of society-wide interest conflicts, meso-corporatism serves the overarching goal to relieve the involved parties by means of transferring public regulatory tasks and responsibilities to organised private interest in exchange for state protection and support. Given this, both arrangements differ in durability and stability. Macro-corporatist arrangements are often short-lived and less stable because the participating actors can always leave the corporatist arrangement. In contrast, meso-corporatism is regarded as rather inflexible, because the exit of the involved parties threatens their functioning capacity (Olk 1996: 104; Czada 1994: 52-54).

    Given the inflexible structure of meso-corporatism the advocacy interest representation of welfare associations is becoming easily compromised by their close cooperation with public service providers like the state, local authorities and social insurance bodies. The problems of the welfare associations to balance out their relationships with state and civil society are reflected in their dual function of social service provision and advocacy interest representation. For a number of reasons both functions are strongly interlinked. The welfare associations' involvement into social service provision puts them into the position to judge legislation and...

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