Digitalization and the future of the welfare state

12 July 2023



This talk explores how digitalization—in different forms—affects the welfare state. Digitalization is likely to have a lasting impact on work, welfare, and the distribution of income. It will radically transform not only social risks in health, education and the labour market, but also the means by which these risks are addressed. In this talk, we will present and discuss findings from an edited volume on these issues published last year. The volume brings together internationally renowned welfare-state scholars to identify the socio-economic challenges that result from rapid technological change; the ensuing political conflicts and struggles in the domain of welfare state reform broadly defined; and how these changes challenge and shape existing labour market and welfare state arrangements. In the short talk, we discuss and present the contours of a research agenda emerging from this collaborative work, enriched with a number of concrete examples and findings from the book.

Based on the book, ‘Digitalization and the Welfare State‘, edited by Marius Busemeyer, Achim Kemmerling, Paul Marx and Kees van Kersbergen, Oxford University Press 2022.


Marius R. Busemeyer is a Full Professor of Political Science at the University of Konstanz and Speaker of the Excellence Cluster “The Politics of Inequality”. His research interests include comparative political economy and welfare state research, education and social policy, public spending, institutional change theories, and public opinion on the welfare state. Busemeyer holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Heidelberg and has worked as a senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. He has also held visiting professorships and fellowships at various institutions, including Harvard, Oxford, and Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne). Busemeyer has received two major grants from the German Research Foundation (DFG)’s Emmy Noether program and the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant scheme. He has published extensively in various leading journals and has authored several books, including A loud, but noisy signal? Public opinion and education reform in Western Europe (Cambridge University Press) and Skills and Inequality (Winner of the 2015 Stein Rokkan Prize for Comparative Social Science Research).

Achim Kemmerling is the Gerhard Haniel Chair of Public Policy and International Development and currently the director of Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, University of Erfurt. Before coming to the Willy Brandt School, Achim Kemmerling worked as a Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Public Policy, Central European University Budapest teaching courses on methodology, public policy and development. He holds a PhD in Political Science from Freie Universität Berlin, and an M.A. in International Political Economy from Warwick University. He has published in academic journals of various disciplines (e.g. World Development, Journal of Common Market Studies, Socio-Economic Review) on a wide range of issues from taxation and fiscal policies, to social and labor market policies, and official development aid. He has worked as a consultant to the German parliament, the German Society for Technical Cooperation (former GTZ, now GIZ), the Open Society Foundation and the European Investment Bank. Currently, he works on the consequences of digitalization in middle-income countries and is writing on a book about human progress and the role of public policy.

Paul Marx is a researcher in the fields of political economy and sociology.  He currently holds a Heisenberg Professorship at the University of Bonn and is affiliated with the IZA – Institute of Labor Economics as a Research Fellow. Paul Marx received his doctorate in Social Sciences from the University of Cologne and has held professorships at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Southern Denmark.  Paul Marx’s research focuses on comparative public policy analysis, unequal political representation, and the socio-economic factors influencing political participation. He currently works on the project “The micro and macro dynamics of political inequality”, funded by the Heisenberg Program of the German Research Foundation. Paul Marx has published in leading journals of political science and sociology, including the British Journal of Sociology, European Journal of Political Research, European Sociological Review, and Journal of Politics. He recently co-edited a book on “Digitalization and the welfare state” (OUP) with Marius Busemeyer, Achim Kemmerling, and Kees van Kersbergen.

Kees van Kersbergen is professor of Comparative Politics at the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Denmark. His research interests lie in the fields of comparative politics, political sociology, and political economy, focusing on the comparative politics of the welfare state and especially the impact of rapid technological change on democracy and (social) policy. He has published widely in leading (political science and other) journals and with major university presses. He is the author (with Barbara Vis) of Comparative Welfare State Politics: Development, Opportunities, and Reform (Cambridge University Press) and (with Carsten Jensen) of The Politics of Inequality (Palgrave Macmillan). He co-edited (with Marius Busemeyer, Achim Kemmerling, and Paul Marx) Digitalization and the Welfare State (Oxford University Press).

Further reading

Digitalization and the Welfare State, edited by Marius Busemeyer, Achim Kemmerling, Paul Marx and Kees van Kersbergen, Oxford University Press 2022.