Welfare Systems Without Economic Growth: A review of the challenges and next steps for the field


Christine Corlet Walker, Angela Druckman, Tim Jackson

elfare systems across the OECD face many combined challenges, with rising inequality, demographic changes and environmental crises likely to drive up welfare demand in the coming decades. Economic growth is no longer a sustainable solution to these problems. It is therefore imperative that we consider how welfare systems will cope with these challenges in the absence of economic growth. We review the literature tackling this complex problem. We identify five interconnected dilemmas for a post-growth welfare system: 1) how to maintain funding for the welfare system in a non-growing economy; 2) how to manage the increasingrelative costs of welfare; 3) how to overcome structural and behavioural growth dependencies within the welfare system; 4) how to manage increasing need on a finite planet; and 5) how to overcome political barriers to the transformation of the welfare state. There is now need for further research investigating the macro-economic dynamics of post-growth welfare systems; trialling preventative, relational, low-resource models of welfare provision; and seeking to better understand political barriers to a post-growth welfare transition. We also make the case for considering post-growth welfare studies as a field in its own right, with the aim of improving coherence and cross-fertilisation between disciplines.

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