Welfare Policies in Switzerland and Italy

Institutions, Motherhood, Family and Work in the 19th and 20th Centuries

by Michela Minesso (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection 170 Pages


This book provides two main contributions to the existing literature on the history of welfare institutions and social rights in the 20th century. First, it is, to the best of our knowledge, the first research to analyze the cross-country comparison of welfare policies between the two countries from a historical prospective. The comparison is particularly interesting as we focus on two nations with very different institutional settings. On one side Switzerland, a federal state. On the other Italy, a centralized state until only very recently. The second important contribution of this book is the specific set of policies analyzed: policies aimed at protecting motherhood, childhood and women workers’ rights during the 20th century, a period in which European society changed drastically.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction Institutions, Motherhood, Family, Work in Switzerland and Italy in the 19th–20th Centuries (Michela Minesso)
  • Social Norms and Social Policies in Switzerland (Jean-Pierre Tabin)
  • The Welfare State in 20th Century Italy from “Political Discontinuity” to “Institutional Continuity” (Michela Minesso)
  • Family and Motherhood in 20th Century Swiss Social Policies (Brigitte Studer)
  • Family, Law, Women’s Legal Status and Family Care Work in 20th Century Italy (and Switzerland) (Paolo Passaniti)
  • Between State and Voluntary Action: the Evolution of the Italian Third Sector (Gianni Silei)
  • Public Assistance in Canton Ticino in the 20th Century. History and Historiography (Massimiliano Paniga)
  • Index of names
  • Series index

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by Michela Minesso

Institutions, Motherhood, Family, Work in Switzerland and Italy in the 19th–20th Centuries

Over the last decades the analysis of the European Welfare system has been a topical question for both academic and policy circles. Scholars, in particular, started to study social policies systematically during the 1980s, when the crisis of Welfare became severe and evident, giving rise to a debate on its origins and possible solutions.

The discussion involved the different fields of social and historical sciences, each of which contributed with its own methods and instruments. Social sciences developed important comparative analysis, clarifying the relationship between different national Welfare systems, and produced general interpretative models (such as the seminal contributions by Peter Flora and Arnold J. Heidnheimer at the beginning of the 1980s and Gøsta Andersen in 1990).1 These works have started a new field of research and ←9 | 10→heavily influenced the following studies. However, their focus is on some aspects of Welfare and, more generally, on the similarities rather than the differences across countries. It is therefore not a coincidence that, in more recent years, social scientists themselves have advised to re-consider the ←10 | 11→national characteristics of Welfare (it was suggested, for example, in the studies on French Welfare by Bruno Palier2).

Starting from the work by Gerhard A. Ritter on Germany (1991), instead, historical research has focused more on the analytical study of each country’s case and on highlighting the national features of European welfare.3 This book, representing the results of a joint international ←11 | 12→research project of Swiss and Italian scholars, aims to take part in this debate, analysing the cross-country comparison of Welfare policies from a historical perspective. It highlights the main reasons why welfare policies evolved differently in different nations and, at the same times, the fundamental drivers that make their salient traits similar across many European countries.←12 | 13→

In this regard, the comparison is particularly interesting as the book focuses on two countries with very different institutional settings. On the one hand, we have Switzerland, a federal State, where the central government has limited power over local entities. On the other hand, there is Italy, a centralized state (until only very recently), where policies have been discussed and approved by the national parliament and implemented locally with a top-down approach. In this regards, the research tries to understand how much the different institutional frameworks have contributed to shape characteristics and objectives of Welfare policies in the two nations and, trying to answer this question, mainly focuses its analysis on a specific area of Welfare policies during the 19th and 20th centuries: social care, motherhood, and family policies.

The analysis of these topics from a historical perspective constitutes a novel contribution to the existing literature. Those policies have affected tremendously the development of the European society since the end of the ←13 | 14→19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, allowing, just to make an example, women to participate in the labour market and, as a consequence, changing forever their role within the family and in the society. For these reasons it is essential to analyse the characteristics of welfare policies in the different countries and their consequences in relation to the other driving forces of the European history, as this book aims to do. On the contrary, the book devotes less space to the analysis of labour protection policies and reforms, which have been already thoroughly studied by previous historical researches. Studying labour policies, in fact, is not the focus of this work and those policies are generally mentioned either in relation to the status of women (as in the chapter by B. Studer) or as part of a general description of the developments of social policies in the two countries (for instance, in the essays by Tabin and Minesso).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (July)
History of Institutions Contemporary History Welfare History Gender History Female Citizenship European Studies
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 170 pp., 1 fig. b/w, 1 table.

Biographical notes

Michela Minesso (Volume editor)

Michela Minesso, PhD in European History, is Full Professor of History of Political Institutions at the University of Milan. She was Fulbright visiting professor at the Northwestern University of Chicago. Her main research interests include history of European institutions, gender and welfare history.


Title: Welfare Policies in Switzerland and Italy