WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022

: Issue 01/2022

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 3-11

Tanja Klenk, Simone Leiber, Jana Windwehr

New Strengths, Old Weaknesses. Weak Interests in Social Policy – an Inventory


This article forms the introductory framework for the other articles within the focus issue, giving an overview of the state of, and the need for, further research in the field of so-called weak interests within the welfare state and their political representation. The authors characterise the representation of weak interests as a dynamic process depending on recent changes in the political arena of the welfare state itself. Technological change through digitalisation is also addressed in terms of its implications for the representation of weak interests. On the one hand, the authors identify a certain selective reinforcement of interests traditionally understood as weak, both in terms of participation and assertiveness, as well as a growing importance of the mode of “self-representation” as compared with “advocatory representation” and “co-determination by (electoral) office”. On the other hand, they also find a remarkably low degree of change when it comes to politically neglected groups such as long-term unemployed people as well as poor families and their children and consider possible causes for this. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 12-19

Benjamin Benz, Katrin Toens

Interests of Homeless People in the Area of Tension between Advocacy, Co-determination and Self-representation


The article provides an introduction to specific settings and basic possibilities to represent the interests of homeless people. Three case studies are discussed, namely a day centre for homeless women in the city of Karlsruhe, an initiative to build housing for the homeless in the city of Cologne, and a nation-wide model for the self-representation of the interests of homeless people. The examples demonstrate different target-oriented and universal strategies of the politics of interest representation by advocacy, co-determination, and self-advocacy in different contexts and on different levels of policy making. They also reveal substantial restrictions and potential regarding specific subgroups of homeless people, such as women, people from other EU member states, and people who (used to) live on the streets. Finally, it is discussed whether the conventional criteria for describing the strength or respectively the weakness of interests are sustainable or whether they need to become complemented by additional criteria in order to adequately describe interest representation in social work and social services for the homeless. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 20-28

Sigrid Leitner, Stefan Schäfer

Interest Representation of Marginalised Groups in the Legislative Process. Presence, Influence and Powerlessness of Welfare Associations and Other Social Interest Organisations


This article draws on scholarly debates concerning the influence of welfare associations on policy making and examines how the so-called “weak” interests of marginalised groups are represented during legislative processes. The authors analyse the submissions made by representatives of weak interest groups to draft bills and their discussion in public hearings of the parliamentary committee for work and social affairs. This shows a heterogeneous landscape of representative actors which goes far beyond the usual relevance of subject-specific alliance of interest groups, namely the big welfare associations and includes diverse social interest organisations. Advocacy coalitions between different interest organisations can be identified. Furthermore, it is shown that legislative processes are either receptive or dismissive of outside expertise, depending on the topic. The article thus identifies difficulties and opportunities for social interest representation in legislative processes. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 29-36

Philip Schillen, Birgit Apitzsch, Britta Rehder, Berthold Vogel

Civil Society Approaches to Legal Counselling and Legal Technology Providers – Old and New Advocates of Weak Interests?


Profit-oriented legal technology providers are gaining in importance in various fields of law. In social law, they offer automated support when entering objections and complaints or with law suits against the social administration regarding social benefits for jobless, elderly or sick persons. With this, legal technology providers explicitly claim to facilitate law enforcement for “politically weak” persons who are seen as potentially incapable of doing so by themselves. In doing so, these digital legal service providers are entering a policy field with long-established civil society actors and institutions who offer social and legal support. Against this background the article examines the self-proclaimed “Advocates of the Weak” on the basis of empirical research. Legal support for the “politically weak” as put forward by legal technology providers is examined. This analysis pursues the question of how support for the “politically weak” can be offered in a straightforward and inexpensive way, and additionally examines the question of its socio-political efficacy and the consulting process generally. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 37-44

Wolfgang Schroeder

Limits to Governmental Action in Promoting Weak Interests. The Case of Geriatric Care


The repeated failure of unions and employers to improve working conditions and pay for Germany’s geriatric care workers has led to increasing state intervention in the sector. Can this top-down approach succeed where the social partners have failed? This article argues that while the state currently plays a central role in advancing a needs-based strategy in the geriatric care industry, encompassing policy change remains unlikely in the absence of independent and effective representation of worker interests. Taking regional Nursing Chambers and the Concerted Action Care as examples, the article discusses the detrimental effects of top-down interventions and highlights the need for bottom-up initiatives in reforming the country’s geriatric care sector. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 45-56

Thomas von Winter

The Strong as Advocates of the Weak? Patients’ Interests and Associations in the Health Policy Arena


The article takes up a major question which has been brought up often enough in studies on interest inter-mediation in the health policy arena. This question is about the issue whether the interests of patients are weak interests or which part these interests play in a highly complex policy arena that is dominated by a lot of resourceful actors. In the author’s opinion, the majority of the major actors in the health policy area have, in one or another way, to take into account the patients’ interests if they want to pursue their own aims credibly or successfully. To test this hypothesis, he analyses the 38 written statements submitted by interest groups to the health committee of the German Bundestag on the occasion of the public hearing on a draft bill ; health insurance supply strengthening law (Versorgungsstärkungsgesetz) in March 2015. First, it is examined how the 15 legal provisions (out of 155 legal provisions altogether) that directly establish new rights and entitlements to benefits for patients are assessed by the interest groups. Second, the arguments are identified as used by the associations to support their positions with respect to the 15 legal provisions in question. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 57-65

Florian Blank, Michaela Schulze

Still Strong Interests? Labour Unions and Employers in Social Politics


Trade unions and employers’ associations have long been correctly labelled “strong interests” in the field of social policy, as they have managed to successfully lobby for their interests to be recognised in the political process. However, following the reforms of the red-green coalition government (1998–2005) observers noted a weakening of the corporatist arrangement granting privileged access for trade unions and employers’ associations to political decision-makers. This article discusses whether the path of decreasing influence of strong interests was continued. It scrutinises legislation on self-governance in the social insurance schemes that traditionally assigns an important role to trade unions and employers’ associations. Also, it analyses the invitations to the German Trade Union Federation and Confederation of German Employers’ Associations to the Federal Parliament’s committee for labour and social affairs in the 15 th to 19 th legislative periods. The analysis shows that the associations’ role in the self-governance of the social insurance schemes was further weakened, while its position in the legislative processes remained stable. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, pp. 66-71

Katrin Menke

Labour Market Activation in the Interest of Female Refugees? Labour Market Services at the Limit


The interests of female refugees can be considered as weak within the welfare state. Rarely perceived as independent subjects, aspects of their living conditions such as temporary residence permits, care obligations and a lack of paid labour participation hamper them from organising and enforcing their own interests. Moreover, not much is known about their gender and migration specific needs. This article presents qualitative research on the labour market participation of female refugees, focusing on the experiences of these women. It gives an overview of their interests regarding their participation in paid labour and how these interests are addressed by the job centres. The findings show that female refugees seldom manage to enforce their particular interests e. g. in qualified employment. At the same time the actions of representatives for equal opportunities on the labour market (Beauftragte für Chancengleichheit am Arbeitsmarkt) as advocates of this group follow a certain orientation towards female refugees as the “Other”. Official structures that fade out multiple discrimination based on gender or religion complicate the appropriate addressing of heterogeneous target groups within the German labour administration. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, PP. 72-74

Frank Jäger

Thorn in the Flesh of the Social Administration. Considerations about the Work of Tacheles e. V. as a Mouthpiece for Low-income People


Enforcing the interests of the weak in the welfare state is subject to blockades and influences that are difficult for the actors themselves to predict or influence. The article outlines the conditions under which such representation of interests takes place. The text is based on the experiences of an association for the unemployed named “Tacheles” in the city of Wuppertal, which runs an independent local unemployment centre and is recognised far beyond the region for its competences in representing the interests of unemployed and welfare beneficiaries as well as for its nationwide networking activities. The author describes the toolbox of these social agents who have to manage on a small budget. Examples, strategies and their results are explained and conclusions for practical work are drawn. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2022, PP. 75-77

Sonja Blum

Interests of Families and Children in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Or: Why the “Deserved” Support Has Remained Weak


With the childcare and school closures, families and children have faced particular strains during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet measures taken in education and care policies can only be partially explained by “necessities” of pandemic containment, or “ambiguous interests” of families and children. Rather, the case corresponds to the role of dependents as described by Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram (1993).German COVID-19 policy makers described families and children as “vulnerable” groups and as such highly deserving of support. Yet overall, their interests have remained weakly represented. more … (in German)