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The European Austerity Programmes could be described as a critical juncture in terms of development of welfare systems. Discuss in relation to Ireland and Greece, drawing on empirical evidence and the literature on path dependency.

The European Austerity Programmes could be described as a critical juncture in terms of development of welfare systems. Discuss in relation to Ireland and Greece, drawing on empirical evidence and the literature on path dependency.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Hannah Lockhart. Originally submitted for Social Science at University College Dublin, with lecturer Prof. Patricia Kennedy in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Hannah Lockhart. Originally submitted for Social Science at University College Dublin, with lecturer Prof. Patricia Kennedy in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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02/07/2014

 
 
Essay Title:
The European Austerity Programmes could bedescribed as a critical juncture in terms of development of welfare systems. Discuss in relation to Ireland and Greece,drawing on empirical evidence and the literature on pathdependency.
 
 
2
ABSTRACT
This paper aims to identify whether or not the recent European austerity measures have actedas a critical juncture for the future development of social policy, focusing particularly on theausterity measures introduced into Ireland and Greece
. The term „critical juncture‟ comes
from the academic literature on path dependency, a theory often debated and discussed in thediscourse of comparative social policy. Path Dependency theories put forward the notion thatany State in power will come to a point in time, led by a series of historical decisions andconsequences made by their predecessors, called a
„crossroads‟ or a critical juncture
. At theseso called critical junctures, the State must choose between potential paths and its decisions atthese critical junctures determine the outcome of social policy and the development of welfare in the future.During the course of the writing of this paper, the main methods of research were to examinea wide variety of sources on the topic including local newspapers, international relationsdocuments, both Irish and Greek central statistic websites, opinion-based books and articlesand online journals, to name a few. The approach that this writer wishes to use is to give abasic overview and summary of both what austerity has meant for Ireland and Greece, thebasic literature on path dependency and how the two interlink. The general aim of theresearch methods used for the duration of this paper were to see whether austerity measureshave provided Irish and Greek governments with the critical junctures mentioned in theprevious paragraph and what this means for the future of social policy.During the course of this paper, this writer has found interesting correlations between themistakes made by both Greek and Irish governments as well as a wider awareness of theimmediate implications for social policy for these governments. It is also interesting to notethat issues surrounding the current austerity measures, for example the privatisation of publicgovernment assets, lead to human rights implications. Several articles mentioned within thispaper are written by journalists who argue that the consistent use of austerity measures on theentire general public is having a detrimental effect on the human rights of the poorestmembers of society. It is important for the future of social policy and welfare development toconsider the implications of such widespread financial changes.
This paper‟s conclusion is that problems continue to persist largely bec
ause of limited visionwith regard to how a country is governed. Issues for social policy have given way to theapparently more urgent financial and fiscal issues. This perhaps appears to have a more direurgency. But if we neglect the social issues resulting from new financial and fiscal policies,this writer argues, that an EU built solely such
 priorities is an EU that is “built on sand”
(Heise and Lierse, 2011, p. 512).
 
 
3
The word „austerity‟ comes from the Greek word „austeros‟ which means bitter or harsh and
was, previously, predominantly used to describe wine and food (Elmhirst, 2010). However, inrecent years, it is a term Europe has become increasingly familiar with. Austerity measuresare characterised by global economic policies of deficit-cutting, Budget cuts to save moneyand decreased spending, as well as being viewed by many as the paradigm of economics
which has meant the “evaporation of [social] benefits” (ibid). The extent of the financial
crisis first became evident in Europe during the mid 2000s which has resulted in austeritymeasures such as higher taxes and unaffordable pensions in the context of spendingbecoming disproportionately out of control (Wesbury & Stein, 2010). The austerity measuresbeing taken are s
ome of the most strict we‟ve ever seen, particularly in the case of Greece and
it is estimated that it will take two decades for countries like Ireland and Greece to recover(Marinakou & Ntsasios, 2011, p. 36). On Sunday the 21
st
of November, 2010, formerTaoiseach of Ireland, Brian Cowen announced the bail-out package from the InternationalMonetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU) (BBC, 2010). The IMF and EU equally
launched a €110billion rescue programme for Greece in May, 2010 after the Greek 
government was faced with bankruptcy (ibid). The IMF is an organisation that works with187 countries and aims to keep finances stabilised as well promote sustainable growth andreduce poverty (IMF, 2011). It was only up until recently that world organisations such as theIMF have been needed in developed, capitalist countries. Their original use was for formercommunist countries and Third World countries. This highlights perhaps an the increasing
influence of what Considine and Dukelow call „supra
-
national‟ a
ctors and policies especiallywith regards to redistribution, regulation and rights (Deacon, 2007 in Considine andDukelow, 2009, p. 159).

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