Looking for a new equilibrium. A parliamentary history of the Dutch social security system, 1980-2014

This PhD project was carried out by Leon van Damme MA

March 2015 - December 2019

Supervisors: Prof. Carla van Baalen and Dr. Johan van Merriënboer

After World War II had ended, the Dutch social security system expanded rapidly. In 1947, Minister of Social Affairs Willem Drees (PvdA, the Dutch Labour Party) introduced an Emergency Retirement Pensions Act. The final arrangements of a state pension scheme would be incorporated in the General Old Age Pensions Act (Algemene Ouderdomswet) which came into effect in 1957. In 1949, the Unemployment Insurance Act (Werkloosheidswet) passed the Dutch parliament. In the 1960s, the social security system was completed by, among other things, a family allowance scheme, (Algemene Kinderbijslagwet, General Child Benefit Act, 1961) and a social assistance scheme (Algemene Bijstandswet, Social Assistance Act, 1963). The expansion of the social security system brought a sharp increase in costs for the employers, the employees and the government. At the beginning of the seventies, it was already clear that due to rising costs and the abuse of social services, this system had to be altered. Nevertheless, major institutional and legislative modifications were postponed. It was not until the eighties that social security schemes started to be regularly adjusted. In this study – co-funded and supervised by Instituut GAK, a private fund that supports scientific research in the area of social security and labour market policies – I will focus on the political decision-making process concerning the transformation of the Dutch social security system in the past three decades. Who were the main actors, and what role did they play? What arguments prevailed in public debates and political deliberations? And what were the effects of these reforms for individual recipients of benefits and for the Dutch social security system as a whole?