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What about family in European old-age security systems? The complexity of institutional individualisation


European welfare states used to be based on the principle of the family. Since the 1990s, however, ‘individual responsibility’ has been promoted, which fundamentally alters the traditional welfare-institutional framing of the family and the corresponding construction of the social citizen. One policy field that has been heavily influenced by this development is old-age security. The literature assumes a convergence towards institutional individualisation. We show this however to be incorrect. We empirically analyse and classify welfare-institutional change in old-age security with regard to individualisation. An innovative methodological approach for institutional analysis allows a nuanced identification of the welfare-institutional trends towards individualisation of the social citizen above pension age both within and between welfare states. We conclude that there has been no general and no partial convergence towards individualisation. Instead, on average, family elements in old-age security have either increased or persisted. Also, our analysis suggests that welfare-institutional change with regard to family is far from being a linear process and in part even displays contradictions.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Patricia Frericks, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Snellmaninkatu 10, FI - 00014 Helsinki, Finland E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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