Welfare State, Tax Expenditures and Inequality: Portugal in Comparative Perspective, 1989-2011

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The concept of 'fiscal welfare' has recently gained relevance in the literature on welfare regimes emphasizing the State's net social effort instead of the traditional analyses relying on direct public spending. This paper focuses on the tax system as an element of indirect social spending both on account of its growing share of government fiscal effort and its broader social and political ramifications.Using the OECD Social Expenditure Database and government budgets and outlays, we show the evolution of indirect social spending in Portugal since the 1980s, focusing on tax breaks for social purposes, for Education, Housing and especially Health care. We further explore its effects regarding democratic quality and equity in the provision of social rights, in matters such as income redistribution, balance between public and private welfare provision and democratic accountability of the policy-making process. Finally, the paper engages the welfare regime literature (and traditional measures for social welfare effort) by comparing the data on indirect social spending between reference countries and analysing the resulting variations and potential reorganization of the welfare state clusters. The paper concludes by drawing on different theories on welfare regimes, role of partisan orientations and of potential veto points in order to help explain the empirical patterns.The focus on TBSPs as part of the 'hidden welfare state', an under-researched topic in the Portuguese and international literature, aims to contribute innovatively to the scholarship on the Portuguese welfare state and to that on welfare regimes in the long historical arc of 'permanent austerity'.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventInternational Conference of Europeanists: Contradictions: Envisioning European Futures - Sciences Po, Paris, Paris, France
Duration: 8 Jul 201510 Jul 2015
Conference number: 22


ConferenceInternational Conference of Europeanists
Internet address


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