The focus of this article is on those policy areas – social assistance for the poor, family transfers and social care services – which in most comparative analyses are indicated as the weakest components of the Mediterranean safety net. Trends in these policy areas are analysed within the framework of the division of responsibility and labour between welfare state, family solidarity, and role of the third sector and of the market. Southern European welfare states have been described as at the same time “rudimentary” and highly “familialised”, with charities and third sector agencies more or less idiosyncratically “filling the holes” both of welfare state and of family solidarity. Until the nineties, all of them lacked a last resource safety net, but in the case of specific categories. During the nineties, these countries have partly restructured the composition and logic of their safety nets. On the one hand, the welfare mix has been more systematically regulated. On the other hand, anti-poverty policies entered the policy discourse and agenda, although only Portugal has succeeded in introducing a minimum income provision at the state level. The ensuing developments strengthened both commonalities and differences among these countries. Dependence on family solidarity and heavy reliance on third sector actors remain a common feature. But countries differ in the impact of territorial differentiation in “welfare mixes”, which, particularly in Spain and Italy, is increasingly rooted in the institutional set up of the state.
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