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Income Position of the Elderly in Different Welfare State Regimes

Programme group Institutions, Inequalities, and Life courses (IIL)

This NWO funded project concerns an empirical test of the supposed existence of a trade-off or an inverse relationship between home-ownership and pensions provision.



In recent decades, the notion of an ‘asset-based' or ‘property-based' welfare system has become increasingly central to debates on the restructuring of western welfare states. The principle underlying an asset-based approach to welfare is that, rather than relying on state managed social transfers to counter the risks of poverty and to secure income maintenance during periods of non employment, individuals accept greater responsibility for their own welfare needs by investing in financial products and property assets which augment in value over time. These can, at least in theory, later be tapped to supplement consumption and welfare needs when income is reduced, for example, in retirement, or used to acquire other forms of investment such as educational qualifications.

Several socio-economic developments have helped to advance the cause of asset-based welfare. On one side has been a combination of pressures brought on by the ageing of national populations and their expected impact on pensions and public welfare resources, along with government retrenchment of public welfare provision associated with neo-liberalisation. On the other has been, until very recently at least, expanding home ownership rates and increases in housing property values across most economically advanced economies. Essentially, the potential wealth tied up in owner-occupied housing has been considered, more or less explicitly, to be a solution to the fiscal difficulties involved in the maintenance of welfare commitments, and through that, the asset in asset-based welfare has frequently become property or housing asset.

Using a longitudinal framework, we analyse how developments on both policy domains have evolved in an interdependent way, resulting in a specific institutional setting affecting the economic situation of the elderly - not only in terms of their poverty risk, but also in terms of the replacement of post-retirement income, and the way this is achieved through the so-called ‘pension mix' and the combination of pensions with other assets, of which housing wealth usually forms a large part.

dr. J.J. (Johan) De Deken

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Institutions, Inequalities and Life courses

prof. dr. H.G. (Herman) van de Werfhorst

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Institutions, Inequalities and Life courses