The legitimacy of welfare: A sociological analysis of the motives for contributing to welfare schemes

W.J.H. van Oorschot

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    Theoretically deduced concern about a declining legitimacy of the welfare state has been expressed regularly over the last thirty years. However, in that period empirical studies have repeatedly shown a permanent and substantial popular supportfor welfare. This naismatch might be due to two factors. Firstly, an inadequate understanding ofpeople's ntotivations to support welfare, since the prognostic theories tend to overemphasise either an interest-basefor such motivations, or a value-base, thereby neglecting the possibility that people might be motivated in both ways, at the same time, and that possibly other types of motivation might play a role too. Secondly, thus farpeople 's motivations to contrióute to welfare have been naeasured indirectly only, which cab easily lead to false conclusions. A direct measurement would allowfor more accurate conclusions, as well as more adequate analyses of the structural and cultural determinants of motivations, which is an area largely uncovered at present. In this article an empirical instrun:ent is developed and appliedfor measuring directly the various motivations people may have to contribute to welfare. For this purpose d~erent types of motivation are deducedfrom sociological theories on solidarity, which address the general question why individual people would give priority to collective over personal interests. Four motives are found: perceived self-interest, moral obligation, affection and identification with others, and accepted authority. The core of the measurement instrument consists of asking respondents to what degree the frrst three motives for contributing to social security apply in their case, given that paying such contributions is a legal obligation. The instrument is applied in a national survey among the Dutch adultpopulation in 1995. The main conclusions are: that indeed a large majority of the Dutch is motivated to payfor welfare on several grounds at the time; that the motive of self-irrterest plays a most inrportant role; that older people, meir and the highest educated are more strongly motivated to contribute to welfare, while welfare use and income level only have a modest injluence; and that the main patterns can óe understoodfrom the encompassing character of the Dutch welfare state, from which (nearly) all Dutch citizens profit personally.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationTilburg
    PublisherWORC, Work and Organization Research Centre
    Number of pages25
    Publication statusPublished - 1999

    Publication series

    NameWORC Paper


    • social security
    • motivation


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