185 Reforming Social Protection under Ideological Influences and Preferences. Social Protection Between Austerity and Other Reforms - The Case of North Macedonia

This research provides an analysis of reforms in the transition period with a special focus on the last decade regarding the social protection system as a crucial social policy domain in North Macedonia. From a methodological point of view, the research is based on a literature review and quantitative methods. It provides empirical evidence in the form of a survey conducted with various interest groups and political parties nationwide. The empirical results in the form of perceptions show a tendency of interest groups and political parties preferring social-democratic ideological values on issues such as social protection financing, social services delivery and the central role of the state in welfare provision. On the other hand, based on the literature review and policy analyses, there is evidence of a tendency of neo-liberalizing social policy in the country, in which principles of conditionality and eligibility, cuts in benefits, marketization of social services, etc., have become dominant trends in the last decade, thus transforming the social protection system in essence. Therefore, two questions should be asked: What kind of social protection system do we have? What kind of social protection do we prefer ideologically?