The Anglo-Saxon welfare states: Still Europe’s outlier – or trendsetter?

Fiona Dukelow, Elke Heins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The UK and Ireland are typically paired together as the Anglo-Saxon or liberal welfare states of Europe, however, comparative analysis of both countries' welfare states is rare. The most recent systematic comparative analysis dates to Daly and Yeates’ (2003) analysis of social security. Regarding structural, political and ideological factors they noted a range of ways the two countries diverged and suggested that both countries were transforming, but in significantly different ways, thus questioning whether they could still be feasibly situated within the same welfare model. In the intervening period both countries experienced major upheaval, their common ‘Anglo-liberal’ growth model (Hay 2013) being at the core of the financial crisis in 2008. Consequently we ask whether the Irish and UK welfare states are still as divergent as Daly and Yeates observed or whether recent trends have meant that these two welfare states are moving in a common direction, without necessarily reaching full convergence. We proceed to address these questions by broadly tracking the typical characteristics of liberal welfare regimes in the UK and Irish contexts. We first look at patterns of social expenditure, taxation and related policy reform. We then look at what might be deemed social investment policies and this is followed with an analysis of selected welfare outcomes. We end by analysing the main factors that help explain our findings and by assessing how the two welfare states currently compare as the Anglo-Saxon welfare states of Europe. We conclude by suggesting that whilst the UK has moved further down the road of a residual welfare state, it is also the case that the Irish welfare state is on less of a divergent track with the UK than was the case in the early 2000s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of European Social Policy
EditorsPatricia Kennett, Noemi Lendvai-Bainton
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781783476466
ISBN (Print)9781783476459, 9781789901023
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2017


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