Social Policy and Society


The worlds of welfare: illusory and gender blind?

Clare Bambra a1
a1 School of Social Science and Law, Sheffield Hallam University E-mail:

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The nature of welfare state regimes has been an ongoing debate within the comparative social policy literature since the publication of Esping-Andersen's The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (1990). This paper engages with two aspects of this debate; the gender critique of Esping-Andersen's thesis, and Kasza's (2002) assertions about the ‘illusory nature’ of welfare state regimes. It presents a gender-focused defamilisation index and contrasts it with Esping-Andersen's decommodification index to illustrate that, whilst individual welfare states have been shown to exhibit internal variety across different policy areas, they are both consistent and coherent in terms of their policy variation by gender. It concludes, in contrast to both the gender critique of Esping-Andersen, and Kasza's rejection of the regimes concept, that the ‘worlds of welfare’ approach is therefore neither gender blind or illusory, and can, if limited to the analysis of specific areas such as labour market decommodification or defamilisation, be resurrected as a useful means of organising and classifying welfare states.