Welfare states and social policies in Eastern Europe and the former USSR: where informality fits in?

Jeremy Morris, Abel Polese, Borbala Kovacs, Ida Harboe

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Since the end of socialism scholars have been debating whether post-socialist welfare policies in Eastern Europe and the former USSR could be considered converging into Western European patterns, and possibly fit one of Esping-Andersen's (1990) welfare state classifications, or whether they should be considered an exception or sui generis and therefore studied beyond these categories. This article is informed by post-2008 crisis material and contends that neither of the above interpretative frameworks is appropriate because they both miss the role of informal welfare provision and informal renegotiations of the scope of welfare policies. Going beyond the transitional-alternative paradigm, this article situates itself in the structure–agency debate in defining how welfare policies are renegotiated by domestic and local actors and come to form a partially new system. Rather than seeing the former socialist region as an exception, it suggests that the very debate about the welfare state and welfare policies should be revisited in order to consider also informality as a major element of social policy-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-198
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contemporary European Studies
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Eastern Europe
  • informal sector
  • welfare state
  • Lithuania
  • Romania
  • social policies


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