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Too Sick to Work? Social Security Reforms in Europe for Persons with Reduced Earnings Capacity

Edited by Stamatia Devetzi, Sara Stendahl


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The idea that European welfare states are struggling to meet new social risks during a process of adaptation to a post-industrial setting has been an acknowledged theory in welfare state research for some time. The authors of this remarkable book have chosen to study a powerful indicator of how this trend might affect legal protection and access to justice for individuals: reforms in social security systems as they apply to cases of reduced earnings capacity. While previously the notion of social protection made welfare state inhabitants feel that the risk of loss of income due to physical or psychological hindrances was minimal, this sense of security can no longer be taken for granted.

This book presents in-depth analyses, by nine leading scholars in social security law, of recent reforms in the field of incapacity benefits in four European countries: Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The authors emphasize how recent reforms in the field of social security have been transformed into legal provisions, how the gate-keeping function is implemented in the legislation of the different countries, and to what extent the reforms have affected the legal position of the individuals concerned. They find that ever-tightening requirements designed to reduce benefit dependency, in combination with policies emphasizing individual responsibilities rather than individual rights, cause increased social risks for exposed groups. Among the specific aspects covered are the following:

  • Measuring the reduction of earnings capacity;
  • rights and obligations attached to reintegration into the labour market;
  • work capability assessment procedures;
  • ‘rehabilitation chains’ with fixed time limits;
  • the real and increased risk of poverty faced by long-term incapacitated persons;
  • constitutional concerns raised by increased dependency on means-tested benefits;
  • conditionality of benefits on work-related activities, participation in training programmes, or active job searching; and
  • sanctions that can be applied if the claimant fails to comply with activation measures.

All the country chapters provide thorough surveys of recent reforms, as well as analyses of their different weaknesses and strengths. The European dimension is explored with particular reference to anti-discrimination legislation, health and safety law as well as the Open Method of Coordination. As a systematic analysis of the current reforms relating to reduced earnings capacity, this book will attract a wide readership among lawyers and policymakers for its thorough coverage of the current landscape and the far-reaching implications it suggests. The book’s systematic comparative method sheds a bright light on the challenges faced by post-industrial European welfare states, and its crystallization of the legal strategies behind the individual legal measures and reforms deepens our understanding of the institutions of social security and our awareness of the rights and obligations of exposed individuals.

Last Updated 08/26/2011
Update Frequency As Needed
Product Line Kluwer Law International
ISBN 9789041134264
SKU 10059584-0001
Table of Contents

List of Contributors


Chapter 1 Introduction Stamatia Devetzi and Sara Stendahl

Chapter 2 The European Social Model and Reforms of Incapacity Benefits Eberhard Eichenhofer

Chapter 3 ‘Incapacity for Work’: A National Legal Concept with Cross-National Functions Thomas Erhag

Chapter 4 Extra Capacity in the Labour Market?: ESA and the Activation of the Sick and Disabled in the UK Neville Harris and Simon Rahilly

Chapter 5 The New Dutch Disability Benefits Act: The Link between Income Provision and Participation in Work Frans Pennings

Chapter 6 The Complicated Made Simple? The Reinfeldt Government's 2006–2010 Reforms of Swedish Social Security Protection for Those with Reduced Capacity for Work Sara Stendahl

Chapter 7 Long-Term Incapacity Benefits in Germany Sylvia Dünn

Chapter 8 The Notion of Incapacity in German Social Security Law and the Interrelation between Unemployment and Invalidity Hans-Joachim Reinhard

Chapter 9 Incapacity Benefits – Comparing Legal Reforms and Legal Strategies Sara Stendahl and Stamatia Devetzi

Chapter 10 Reforms of Incapacity Benefits Systems in Europe Stamatia Devetzi