Trimming the Fat from Europe’s Welfare States

The Germans dubbed it the wohlfartsstaat, or welfare state: a package of social protections enacted in the 1880s under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The concept spread from Germany across Western Europe, expanding from basic pension and health-care programs to include such extras as Christmas bonuses and cash payments to new mothers. Now, though, governments across the Continent are scaling back their largesse as they grapple with ballooning budget deficits and heavy debt burdens that threaten their access to global credit markets. Here are some of the measures now being taken.

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