Protective Legislation: The “Third Pillar” of the Welfare State

Welfare states are built upon three central social policy pillars: (1) income programs, including an assortment of income maintenance and security benefits; (2) social services, comprising a diverse constellation of provisions, which furnish care such as health care and education, and “in kind” benefits; and (3) protective legislation, encompassing a dense web of proactive and preventative laws, rights, and entitlements, such as health and safety legislation, minimum wage laws, child protection acts, rent controls, and laws governing evictions and foreclosures. Despite its centrality to the welfare state and to our well‐being, this third pillar has received considerably less attention in comparative social policy research. The dominant welfare state typologies have focused almost exclusively upon income measures and, more recently, on social services, to construct their welfare state categories or “worlds” of welfare while largely neglecting this crucial third pillar. A greater focus on protective welfare legislation can help sharpen the distinctions among welfare states within and across the welfare worlds, which is particularly valuable in light of the ongoing erosion of the other two pillars over the past few decades.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
Social Policy & Administration