Occupational welfare

Authored by: Kevin Farnsworth

Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138631649
eBook ISBN: 9781315207049
Adobe ISBN:


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There is nothing new about occupational welfare – various social benefits provided by employers for employees (Goodin and Rein, 2001). In fact, employers dominated early ‘social’ provision until the beginning of the twentieth century – providing education, housing, and medical and community services (Hay, 1977: 435–455; Russell, 1991). Some, such as Joseph Rowntree, Lever Brothers and Cadbury in the UK, set up whole villages for workers, and workplace provision continued to play a role – a key role for some – in overall receipts of welfare benefits even after the establishment of the modern ‘welfare state’. Richard Titmuss (1976) recognised its importance and argued that occupational welfare was one of the key pillars of the welfare state. There is also evidence to suggest that occupational welfare is becoming more, not less, important over time as the ‘private’ becomes more important and the public is squeezed (Pavolini and Seeleib-Kaiser, 2016). The role that occupational welfare plays in today’s welfare systems varies, however, between welfare states, between different occupational sectors and between workers. Defining, categorising and measuring occupational welfare are complex tasks, made more difficult by the general neglect of this area within the literature, with a few exceptions (see Farnsworth, 2004b: 437–455; Greve, 2007; May and Brunsdon, 1994: 146–169; Rein, 1983: 3–22, 1996: 27–43). This chapter deals with three key questions: (1) What constitutes occupational welfare?; (2) What is the purpose of occupational welfare?; (3) How much does occupational welfare cost?. The chapter then raises some key questions relating to occupational welfare that remain unanswered before concluding with a plea for more research into the area.

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