The period after 1945 saw a rapid growth in social welfare, with the state taking on increasing responsibility for pensions, health care, unemployment relief and income support. In Western democracies economic growth underpinned state investment and was reinforced by demands from the new social movements of the 1960s. Just as the clamour for reformism reached a crescendo in the late 1960s, the global economy began to falter, culminating in the oil crisis of 1973-1974. This volume explores the factors that shaped the trajectories of welfare state change over this crucial period. A close analysis of countries such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom reveals signs of a broader shift towards the decline of government spending and the first tentative moves towards a nascent neoliberalism. Other countries, such as Sweden and West Germany, remained comparatively untouched by the economic crisis and even sought to reinforce their welfare state in response to it. Ireland and Northern Ireland also showed little evidence of these changes, isolated as they were by complex political and religious factors. This book brings together a range of case studies at both country and provincial level in order to build up a more complex and nuanced picture of the welfare state in the 1960s and 1970s.
Forged during the Second World War and the post-war era, the modern Western welfare state was created as a bulwark against the penury associated with the twin repercussions of the First World War and later the Great Depression of the 1930s and the insecurities brought about by the second global war. The state accepted an enlarged commitment to the social and economic well-being of its citizens, propelled by a concern to ensure social stability as much as a commitment to the welfare of individuals. Most Western economies developed a mix of public and private provision of welfare, building on existing initiatives and reaching a new level of scale and maturity in the period 1945 to 1975. In Britain, William Beveridge laid down what his biographer, Jose Harris, has described ‘as a key foundation document for social welfare provision in any modern “mixed economy”, not just in the United Kingdom but also for much of the developed world’ through his 1942 Social Insurance and Allied Services report, otherwise known as the Beveridge Plan.