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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING] BERND MARIN: My name is Bernd Marin.I'm from Vienna.I am directing the European Centerfor Social Welfare Policy Research, whichis affiliated to the United Nations, a thinktank to the United Nations-- a small one.

  • 00:23

    BERND MARIN [continued]: In my first life I was a university professorat the European University in Florence,a chair of comparative political and social research, alsohad the social science department.The type of research I'm interestedin since my young days as a scholaris empirical comparative researchacross European countries from organizational researchto macroeconomic management.

  • 00:56

    BERND MARIN [continued]: In recent years we've been almost exclusivelyconcentrating on welfare issues, pension issues, aging,pension reform.Well, you may study single cases, like the OxfordUniversity methodology department-- if it wouldexist-- or the UK higher education, or health service,or long-term care system, or pension system.

  • 01:24

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Or you may study each of those cases as a case of something.And there are in principal an endless possibilityof comparative frames.And so you compare a number of measurable dimensionswith other cases.And the other cases may be over time, the same case over time.

  • 01:45

    BERND MARIN [continued]: It may be with other issues, institutions,geographical domains-- like cities, regions, countries,and so son.So in principle you have an endless numberof possible comparative claims.Well, in the end, all knowledge comesfrom and through multiple comparisons.

  • 02:10

    BERND MARIN [continued]: There's no other way to learn, actually, than by comparing,distinguishing, comparing, distinguishing,observing correlations, then attributing causes and effectsto these observed co=variations in an basically endlesshermeneutic circle with ever-more-precise and detailedinsights with ever-more-sophisticated methodsand methodologies and also with ever-more-incongruent framesof reference, framings.

  • 02:36

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Because again, there's an endless possibilityof theoretical conceptual frames.I think in principle it hasn't changed much over time.What has changed are the methodologies, the instruments,the tools available, but not the basics.

  • 02:58

    BERND MARIN [continued]: I was actually working in a research institutionas a young scholar, the Institutefor Advanced Studies in Vienna, whereI did postgraduate research.And I was interested in analyzing this one institution,the political organization of social science research work,and happening to have available at my dispositionfrom a comparative study 200 other researchorganizations across Europe.

  • 03:28

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So I could place this one case as a case in point of somethingelse and comparing it with 200 other cases.Later on we studied crisis management, for instance,after the recession 74-75.And we did some simulation studies,again with other countries, focusingon a number of core dimensions like unemployment,socialistic safety nets, and so on,and seeing how countries succeed, performed way well,or not so well in coping with the crisis.

  • 03:56

    BERND MARIN [continued]: From that on, I studied social partnership--for instance, institutions-- macroeconomic management,industrial labor relations, again in a comparative setting.I happened again to be lucky enough.And all these studies show that the datagenerated were our own.We got together and studied phenomena,generating the data basis ourselves.

  • 04:20

    BERND MARIN [continued]: For instance, I was lucky enough to bepart of Wissenschaft Centrum Berlin, Science Center Berlincomparative study on the organization of businessinterests, how does capital organize.As against labor, we know this-- wehave lots of studies on trade unions,but basically none at this time on howcapital organizes politically.So we were studying that, studying hundredsof organizations across Europe in different sectorsfrom construction, to machine tools,to chemical fiber industries, seeing how capital organizes.

  • 04:51

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Politically again, we could look at the phenomenonin comparative settings.Later on, I was studying managing HIV/AIDS,how different countries give organizational responsesto this newly emerging disease in the late '80s, early '90s.

  • 05:14

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And again, we were generating data in six countries, hundredsof organizations-- in the UK, by the way; alsoin the Netherlands; in Hungary and Austria;different European countries-- to see how civil societymobilizes in a situation where state of art isfail to come up with an adequate and rapid responsecapacity in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemics.

  • 05:42

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And interestingly enough, finding hundredsof organizations-- for instance in Switzerlandor the Netherlands-- growing out, emerging outof civil society.And so we have hundreds of-- in the end,a four digit number of organizations,and a three digit number of variablesof each of those organizations, whichallowed us to understand for instance, the value for money.

  • 06:07

    BERND MARIN [continued]: If you give a million euro to this or that organization,how many patients will be taken care of.How long are the opening hours of such an institution?How satisfied or not are the clients with the servicesoffered?There are para-state objectives pursuedlike monitoring the blood and plasma product safety donethrough the Red Cross in some countries, other organizationsin other countries.

  • 06:42

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So to speak, in the first half of my professional life,we were basically generating databases of our own.Later on, I more or less used existing data sets,working on innovative employment initiatives,on dual vocational training system, apprenticeship system,on working time systems, on pension systems,on Social Security issues.

  • 07:12

    BERND MARIN [continued]: There the data situation-- administrative data,other data, comparative data collected by Eurostat that was[INAUDIBLE].There's enough data available.And so we could use secondary analysison those data it monitoring sustainable policiesin mainstreaming aging, in pension reforms,in facts and figures on disability welfare,on healthy aging, on long-term care system--we had a number of studies on long-term-- basically usinga broad range of data sets available from EU-SILCto a garden hose.

  • 07:56

    BERND MARIN [continued]: in trying to extract new notions, new concepts,new measures also of age.To previous [INAUDIBLE] could later ongive you some examples of how youcould use all data sets, or those big conventional existingones, in a, if you wish so, innovative way,and to look at them and also try to extractnew notions, new measures of age, of aging, for instance,compared to the conventional ones.

  • 08:34

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Well, existing conventional data sourcesare there, as I mentioned, from Eurostat, OECD, UN-- UnitedNations-- data banks.It may be SHARE, it may be EU-SILC,it may be Eurobarometer, it may be European Social Surveys.We have created our own mainstreaming agingdata set indicate as to monitor implementation.

  • 08:55

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So they are well-known, they're easy to find nowadays.When it comes to cleaning the data,this is a very tricky thing.Because normally we have to trust,we have to rely on what we get.And in some instances, like EU-SILC, the EU commission evenhas the legislative possibility to oblige member countriesto use similar or the same operationalizations.

  • 09:24

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So this goes pretty far in guaranteeing comparability.But on the other hand I must say, yes, timeand again it happens that errors and mistakes are discoveredaccidentally because we happen to be a small researchinstitute.But I recently counted how many languages we can coverand it turned we have 23 languages wecan cover in a very small research setting.

  • 09:53

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So we happen to have two Hungarian scholars--senior and junior ones-- who, for instance,in an EU-SILC income adequacy measure--how to make ends meet for them-- found outthat the Hungarian operationalization does notcorrespond to that of any other European countriesbecause it was for categories givenas against a specific income level which hasbeen done in other countries.

  • 10:19

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So actually we have been very, very prudentin some of these instances.Then of course there are rules of weshouldn't use cells with less than such a number of existingcases.The questions I still learned when I was young,that no answers with non-response rates,but what is a non-response rate?

  • 10:44

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Is it I don't know answer-- is it a no answer or I don'tknow answer?In many cases, it's bigger than 10%and we still use the data, which isof course very dirty business, if you wish.Not always there are confidence intervals.Let me give you an example.If you have social assistance, non-take-up rates-- thisis a phenomenon we find in many countries.

  • 11:07

    BERND MARIN [continued]: In Austria, for instance, it was 54%of all those entitled to an additional payment,or basic income due to social assistancebasic income requirements, did not take up their social right.

  • 11:29

    BERND MARIN [continued]: But when we looked at the confidence intervals,it turned out that there was plus/minus 7%.So it could be a little bit less than half,but it could also be almost 2/3 of the population whodoes not pick up the monthly paycheck theywould be entitled to.But this, of course, is a very important phenomenon alsowith great fiscal implications.

  • 11:52

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Or I give you another example.Sometimes we have findings which are just so implausible that wecannot believe them, despite the fact that the databases havebeen "cleaned" quote unquote, have been standardized,have been European-wide harmonized.And for instance, we do a study on the World Bankon portability of pensions rights of migrant workerswho go to France, or to Belgium, or to Austria,or to Germany-- say from the Turkish communityto the German.

  • 12:22

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And some of them when they retirego back to their respective home countries.And you would assume that in countrieswith comparable conditions-- also of recruitment,of immigration, of circular migration--similar number of people retires back in the home country,in Izmir, in Ankara, in Istanbul, whereverin Turkey, there shouldn't be big differences between Austriaand Germany.

  • 12:47

    BERND MARIN [continued]: But what we find is actually incredible differences,between 16% in Germany and 50% in Austria.So the question is, what does that mean?Do people have different reporting patterns,administrative practices?

  • 13:08

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Do they keep a bank account in Berlin, or in Cologne,in Wiesbaden as against Vienna, or Innsbruck, or [INAUDIBLE]?I don't know.We don't know, actually.Is it the residents, is it the administrative practice whichis different?Is it the trick that authorities tryto get rid of pension claims-- because manyof the Turkish guest workers, quoteunquote "guest workers" are in the low skill,low qualification, low income bracket?

  • 13:41

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So they would be entitled to whatis called an Ausgleichzulag, top up payments, to their pensionentitlement to meet the minimal pension requirements.And this may several, 600, 700, 800 Europe a month in addition.They are entitled or not to get, dependingon where their place of residence actually is,in Turkey, or in Austria, or in Germany.

  • 14:05

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And so the sheer registration of these residence patternsmakes for a lot of difference in terms of incomeand/or also expenses for the states who pay that.So maybe there are different administrative practices.Only when seeing the results, the outcomes,we figure out that something may not be correct with respectto the data used.

  • 14:29

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And maybe the measures measure somethingdifferent in different countries or the meaningof the same measure is something covers a totally differentsocial practice.We just don't know yet.But it triggers up, it shows, that implausible,anomalous answers-- if you wish so-- makesyou develop new queries, new puzzles, new thingsto be explained.

  • 14:55

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Because for good reasons after a while, with some experience,you get the gut feeling for what is plausible,and what this credible, and what is not so.And so the inconsistencies in findings themselvesmust be checked against theoretical notions,empirical evidence, expectations youmay have concluded from qualitative interviews.

  • 15:23

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Because we basically found interviewingthe migrant associations across the countries-- in France,in Belgium, in Austria, and Germany--found similar responses of why wouldpeople stay in the country of destinationor go back to the country of origin-- basically the same.So not that big differences in re-immigration patternswould have to be expected as we actually found,or seemed to find, right now.

  • 15:49

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And we will further explore those, so to speak,anomalies or somewhat implausible findings.No-- basically, you cannot.You have to be a specialist of your own data cleaning.They have specialists, good ones, in Eurostat, in OECD,in the UN institutions, who do nothing but that.

  • 16:15

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And that's their specialty.And then I'm also part of the Conferenceof European Statisticians.And we have all kinds of skills pooledthere to do exactly that.And this is a full time job in itself--very labor intensive, very technically demanding.So basically, researchers using secondary resources cannotreplace those skills.

  • 16:38

    BERND MARIN [continued]: They in the end have to trust if they accidentally stumbleover implausible things, such as because they happento be native speakers of a given language,they are able to look into the booksand look into the questionnaire and so onand find implausible or unacceptable things theyshould report it back to the source of origin.

  • 17:08

    BERND MARIN [continued]: But normally, you cannot but rely on the good craftsmanshipwork done by people who are in a different stage the productionline, so to speak.You cannot replace those who are responsible for the interimproduct, if you wish, which you base your own research.

  • 17:34

    BERND MARIN [continued]: This is my experience.Maybe some people could.I couldn't.I don't have the skills.In the combination and the pluralism methodsand different data series you always as a good journalistalso would cross-check, and double-check,and have multiple checks.You have different data series.

  • 17:55

    BERND MARIN [continued]: But you have also different methodologies.And qualitative methods are indispensable in a wayto have in-depth knowledge.And sometimes if you think of people who will do research on,I don't know, stock markets and neverhave seen a stock market working from within.And they have theories about monetary processesand don't what the everyday working practice of a tradeactually is.

  • 18:20

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So this is unthinkable.And I think it's good practice to relyon different forms of evidence, on quantifiableagainst qualitative evidence, on different data sources,and different methodologies.

  • 18:47

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Well, the most common criticism of comparative researchof course is that it misses out on the uniquenessand sometimes on the dignity of a single case.It may be a personality, it may be an institution,it may be a country.

  • 19:08

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And in a way this is banal, this is trivial,a kind of fundamentalist a criticism by definition.Because the great power of a unique and a contingent historyand historical legacy in people's lives,in their health, in their occupational biographiesand so on in institutions and in national history cannot beignored-- of course not.

  • 19:32

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And comparative research actuallyhas this clause, this immense power of contingencyby the very notion of path dependency.Path dependency means that once you have an institution seton track, it is severely constrained in its functioning,in its structures, by its historical legacy.

  • 19:57

    BERND MARIN [continued]: The famous example-- I think Richard Rose oncementioned that 95% of all budgetary decisions to datetaken today go back to legislationestablished in the interwar period.You can imagine the long-term impactof these historical legacies.

  • 20:19

    BERND MARIN [continued]: This is important.And comparative research helps to understandexactly this variability of path dependency.They may be more or less path dependant.Each country, for instance, thinksof instead of course-- this is part of "national pride" quoteunquote-- conceptions, being exceptional, being unique.

  • 20:45

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Of course.And each country is unique, as each individual of courseis unique.And historians deal with that.But at the same time, the uniqueness,the exceptionalism-- American, UK, French exceptionalism,Swiss, whatever.And any canton thinks of itself in this wayand any little land, whether it'sa region the size of North Rhine-Westphalia,with almost 90 million people, or the region as smallas [INAUDIBLE] with 350,000.

  • 21:17

    BERND MARIN [continued]: They think of them being as unique.But you could still compare those regionswith other regions, thousands across them in Europe.Our European geographical domain now,the one we deal with from the UN, is not the Europe of 28and not the Europe of 19 of the eurozone--it's the Europe of 56 countries as of today.

  • 21:38

    BERND MARIN [continued]: It includes North America-- Canada,the US-- it includes all of Eastern Europe,it includes the Caucasus region, it includes Central Asia,it includes Turkey, it includes Israel in the south.So this is a very broad domain.And quite obviously each of those member states of the UN,for instance, thinks of themselvesbeing unique, exceptional.

  • 22:06

    BERND MARIN [continued]: But at the same time, they can becompared along a number of dimensionswhich are measurable.To the extent that they are measurable,they can be compared to other countries,whether they like it or not.And sometimes they don't like it,because in the popular coverage of those research findings veryoften you find these league tables and hit parades and soon.

  • 22:28

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And some countries at best and others are not so good.And those who are in the end of these league tablesnormally complain that the measures have not been correct,and this is a misunderstanding.And actually Cyprus, for instance,who is a country of old and new member states to the EuropeanUnion, which has the highest poverty rate of pensioneers,and especially of old age persons, very old age persons,significant majority of the Cypriot populationis poor, but it's the richest new member countryof those who have benefited in themselves whenthe EU was extended.

  • 23:08

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And they would of course contest the finding and say, well,this is not a completely monetized economy as the oneof UK, or the Netherlands, or Switzerland is,so you cannot compare the same quote unquote "povertymeasures."And of course there are different poverty measures.We know that if you measure povertyas a relative concept of 60% of the median income,you have totally different findingsas if you would measure more objectiveforms of material deprivation.

  • 23:39

    BERND MARIN [continued]: In one case Cyprus is so much more poor than Romania,more than twice as much.But when it comes to material deprivation,Eastern European countries traditionally--Bulgaria, Romania, also the Baltic states--have much more severe material deprivation.So there's another measure of povertywhich grasps the specificity of Central and Eastern Europepoverty patterns as against the more relative measures applyingto the west.

  • 24:12

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And so you have all of a sudden incredibility implausiblepatterns.You have more poverty of old age people, for instance,in the west than in the east.But you have more misery and objective material deprivationin eastern countries.And the same applies for gender dimensions.You would find it much higher for womendisadvantaged in some of the Eastern European countries,especially the very old women.

  • 24:38

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So depending how you operationalize it,how you measure it.And the same size for many, many of the coreconcepts, whether its unemployment,whether its non-employment, whether it's inactivity,whether it's aging.All those things vary a lot dependingon which quote unquote "notion" and corresponding empiricalevidence measures we use to grasp it.

  • 25:11

    BERND MARIN [continued]: Well, in the punchline, nothing, really nothing,can be discovered in the fields of welfare, aging,and social policies without comparative lenses.If you don't use comparative lenses, both over time--catching up, falling behind, making progressin one's own development-- or across countries,nothing could be understood.

  • 25:38

    BERND MARIN [continued]: For instance, we now are living in a timewhen mass unemployment, especially youth unemployment,has unprecedented levels after the crashand corresponding economic recession after 2008.But we have not yet fully understoodthat for each unemployed person in Europe, which is 27 millionas of today, there are another four non-employed, inactivepersons, so another 100 million people out of workfor different reasons-- reasons of disability, reasons or workdoes not pay, of perverse incentives,of health impairments, of early retirementis a massive phenomenon across Europe.

  • 26:34

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And for instance, just the disability issuewhich we've been studying quite a lot, today-- also in the UK,but across Europe-- is 2 and 1/2 timesas effective, if you wish, as alsoexpensive for the public purse than the unemployment,mass unemployment, at the height of unemployment.

  • 26:58

    BERND MARIN [continued]: We have 10%, 12% unemployment rates,but we have 40% of people who are out of workduring the working age.And on average, even in countrieswith a relatively high level of employment,a very low level of unemployment--like Switzerland, and Austria for that matter--the average spell of unemployment over your lifetimeis less than two years.

  • 27:24

    BERND MARIN [continued]: It's 10 to 12 years in a country like Spain or Greece.But even there, you have people whoare up to a decade of their working lifetime out of workdue to health impairments, disability, incapacityto fulfill their occupation.

  • 27:46

    BERND MARIN [continued]: And then, for instance, with empirical evidenceyou can find incredible things, such as that thosewho are severely disabled in some countries, eventhe majority of them doesn't get their respective disabilitybenefits.And we call this exclusionary, peoplewould be needy don't get what they need.

  • 28:11

    BERND MARIN [continued]: But we also have the inclusionary,that when we ask people independentlyit turns out that one in three across Europe,one in three persons receiving disability benefits,wouldn't declare him or herself being disabled.So you have both very significant mismatchbetween benefit recipiency and the prevalence of this.

  • 28:33

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So this is a phenomenon which onlythrough comparative research could be discovered at all,could beat seen in all this variety in a continentwhere you have 56 countries.You have a great number of cases, and if you go downto regions, even more so.And so you can all of a sudden see the great heterogeneity,the great diversity, across the continent--or across the continents in this case,in the global Europe conception as the UN has.

  • 29:05

    BERND MARIN [continued]: So you would all of a sudden discoverthings which in an inward-looking small EuropeanEU or eurozone perspective wouldn't evenappear on the radar screen.But they appear on the radar screenonce you look a little bit outside the usual suspects,so to speak, of Continental European countries.

  • 29:30

    BERND MARIN [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Comparative research, Empirical data, Quantitative data analysis

Keywords: age and aging; criticism and critics; educational systems; international affairs; macroeconomics; organizational climate; practices, strategies, and tools; Social policy; time factors; welfare ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

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Events Discussed:



Bernd Marin explains the uses of comparative research and its place in the study of welfare, aging, and social policies.

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Bernd Marin Discusses Comparative Research

Bernd Marin explains the uses of comparative research and its place in the study of welfare, aging, and social policies.

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