Center for Comparative Welfare State Research

About the Center for Comparative Welfare State Research

Under the direction of Academic Board, the Center’s research program focuses upon three topical areas of interest related to current developments in modern welfare states:

Agency and social inequality in later life

The concept of ‘Active ageing’ has become a central reference point in political and academic reflections as to how to organize the ‘good life’ in older ages. However, the ‘Active ageing’ concept is polysemic and subject to different theoretical approaches, analytical perspectives, and empirical observations, and the
concept includes different spheres or domains of life, i.e., labor market participation, voluntary work, and social rights in relation to retirement, care and access to health services, as well as the extent to which active ageing is preconditioned by health, education, having good finances, etc.

Following the Active Ageing Index (AAI) approach developed by Asghar Zaidi and his colleagues, ‘Active ageing’ covers four domains:

  1. employment, referring to the employment opportunities and out-comes (employment rates) among 55-64-year olds
  2. participation in society, referring to participation in voluntary work, caring for grandchildren and old/frail relatives, as well as political participation
  3. independent living, referring to factors such as access to health and long-term care, financial security, pension systems, physical and mental well-being and life-long-learning, including reablement
  4. capability, referring to remaining life-expectancy at age 55, use of information and communications technology, and social connectedness

The CCWSR covers the four domains of ‘Active ageing’. The aim is to scrutinize critically, how the welfare state can support ‘Active ageing’ and to analyze whether ‘Active ageing’ is realistic for all citizens – or for whom? This will be analyzed at four levels:

  1. At the societal level it will be analyzed how welfare regimes, defined as interactions between the state, market and civil society and embedded in different cultural values, condition ‘Active ageing’. 
  2. At the policy level it will be analyzed what policies have been established to strengthen ‘Active ageing’, and with what effects.
  3. At the meso or organizational or company level it will be analyzed, how public and private organizations are in practice supporting ideals about ‘Active ageing’.
  4. At the micro or individual level, older adults’ practices, motivations for and preferences towards ‘Active ageing’ will be analyzed.

The future of work – inclusions and exclusions in the context of work-welfare policies

According to current scientific and political debates, there are several persistent and new challenges to work-welfare policies of the developed welfare states. The main focus of the research in this area is on the ways in which work-welfare policies are dealing with such challenges, what factors help us understand cross-national differences, and the consequences for social inequality, poverty and social marginalization. These challenges involve: Work-welfare policies aiming to influence labor supply in response to the growing gap between available jobs and workers to fill them in many of the advanced welfare states; the emergence of new tensions in the cultural ideas and discourses about work and family policies, particularly in relation to the role of women’s and men’s work-family behavior and the objectives of the “social investment” perspective on family policy; the ongoing shift in the relationship between formal work and different forms of semi-formal and informal work, the rise of telecommuting. and cross-national differences in the culture of work.

Main debates and reforms of the welfare state in the 21st Century

Over the last several decades, welfare states in the post-industrial economies have been challenged by the emergence of new needs associated with demographic ageing, female labor force participation, the waning bonds of family life, intensifying pressures of migration and the financial burdens of increasing social expenditures required to meet these needs. Deliberations about policy measures to address these developments have given rise to a number of debates around issues including: universal versus selective income supports, social rights versus responsibilities, the rights of citizenship, old age security, public versus private service delivery, compensation for family caregiving and the nature of poverty.

Conference on cash transfers and guaranteed minimum income programs

The International Network for Social Policy Teaching and Research, the University of California Berkeley Center for Comparative Welfare State Research, the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, and the Charles University Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Sociological Studies are cosponsoring a conference on cash transfers and guaranteed minimum income programs to be held at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic on September 9th and 10th.

Affiliated Institutions

  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Hamburg
  • University of Southampton
  • Polytechnic of Milan
  • Roskilde University

Current Project Plan

Comparative Analysis of the Transition from Work to Retirement among the Cultural Elite

The planned research aims to analyze cross-national differences in the legal employment and retirement conditions of professors, and how their positions are embedded in the overall employment system. It also aims to evaluate the role of explanatory factors for cross-national differences related to culture, the overall structures of the employment systems, and types of welfare regime.

Over the last decades, pension systems in most countries have been reformed profoundly. Most pension system have moved in the direction of a three-pillar system (as recommended by the World Bank in the 1990s), supporting actuarial principles, privatization, marketization, and individual responsibility. In parallel to this, pension ages have been raised.

These trends are well described in the literature. What is less surveyed is how transformations of pension systems have had an impact on pension prospects of different social groups. This study focuses on how pension prospects of professors have changed in a comparative perspective. This social group has been selected for in-depth studies as we expect this elite group to be relatively safeguarded towards radical retrenchment measures. However, as will be shown, in some welfare regimes professors are on the verge to lose some of their privileges, e.g., their status as civil servants, and most probably, their status in society.

The analyses will include:

  • Status of professors and trends in status changes, e.g., in Denmark professors have lost their status as civil servants, while in other countries (e.g., the US), professors never got the status as civil servants.

  • How are wages and pensions negotiated? By collective or individual bargaining agreements – or both or something else?

  • Under what conditions can a professor be laid-off/fired?

  • What are eligibility criteria, generosity, and the financial formula of professors’ pension systems.

  • Earliest age of eligibility, restrictions on entitlements, and financial incentives to work longer. Can wage and pension income be combined?

  • Is there a compulsory retirement age. To what extent are professors allowed to continue working after they have become eligible to their pension. How is it decided whether they can continue working beyond the pensionable age?

  • Is emeritus status automatically granted – or negotiated? Who decides? What are the privileges of being an emeritus?


Faculty Leader

Neil Gilbert (email:

Academic Board

  • Brigit Pfau-Effinger
  • Traute Meyer
  • Costanzo Ranci
  • Per H. Jensen