A creature called welfare state

Thursday, 3. October 2013


Daniel Kestenholz


Student of Economics University of Berne

The welfare state. This simple combination of words causes a diverse mixture of emotions and connotations to come up in everyone’s mind. To some, it might arouse a warm feeling of being taken care of by something larger, something quite elusive. For others, thinking of a creature robbing them of their earnings while supporting people who just “don’t bother taking care of their own lives” might just slightly increase their heart rate, make their facial expression tighten up and make them blush noticeably . In this sense, the creature called “welfare state” really is a multi-faceted one; one which is perceived substantially differently according to what position an individual might have attained in society, what story of life he has to tell, whether one has travelled on the brighter side of life for the most part or not.

Yet, there might be broad agreement that the institution of the welfare state in itself is an important building block of a society like ours in Switzerland. It might even be cherished by a large part of the population as a crucial achievement of modern age, glorifying this institution as something irreversible, something which is destined to stay as part of what lets humankind prosper.

However, when taking a closer look, the creature appears to be not just one of merits, but rather of ambiguous shape and form. In aging western European societies, its hefty body looks to coming times of diminishing feeding, making it difficult to for all its cells with their yearly requirements to subsist. As fewer and fewer people join the workforce, and the proportion of workers to retirees shifts in favor of the latter, the creature’s weaknesses are increasingly noticeable.

How does the story of our creature unfold, an observer of the scene might want to know. Such questions are of critical importance, and have great implications for the lives of millions. But it’s also an issue that causes us to think about new ideas and concepts for securing a future of shared prosperity. And it’s most certainly a topic that deserves to be discussed in detail at the 12th Dialogue on Science, taking place from October 15th to 17th 2013 in Engelberg, Switzerland.

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