Conditions of Sustainable Welfare: A Cross-Case Empirical Analysis of 22 Locality-Based Welfare Systems in Decentralised Indonesia

Virna Emily Tobing-David, Isbandi Rukminto Adi, Mu’man Nuryana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The existing body of knowledge underpinning welfare state theory suggests that most welfare systems depend on growth. It signifies that the state–market mechanism is a prerequisite for achieving welfare. However, the current ecological crisis highlights the detrimental effects of unchecked economic growth, which often exploits human and natural resources. This phenomenon calls for a countermovement that protects society and natural resources through social and public policies. Within the domain of sustainable welfare, an argument points towards the need to gain an empirical understanding of sustainable welfare policies and gather qualitative evidence that explains the conditions and mechanisms of “better” eco-social performance. This article aims to identify conditions leading to achieving sustainable welfare outcomes and discern under which conditions sustainable welfare outcomes are attainable or fail, especially in the context of the Global South. It draws on empirical data to analyse the locality-based welfare systems of 22 villages across decentralised Indonesia using a conditions-oriented approach of the crisp-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis. The findings shed light on the institutional setting and policy mix leading to sustainable welfare outcomes in less-industrialised, informal economy-based, and highly decentralised country contexts. The evidence points to the presence of sustainable welfare outcomes when a substantial level of subsidiarity, self-governance, and meaningful community participation, and a policy mix covering basic needs, services for vulnerable groups, a functioning local economy, and innovative ecological practices are in place. While past research predominantly leans towards a statist-focused approach to sustainable welfare, this study proposes a society-focused perspective. It argues that transforming both modes of production and relational dynamics among society, state, and market in the Global South context is necessary, where an empowered society serves as a prerequisite for sustainable welfare outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1629
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • community welfare
  • crisp-set QCA
  • eco-social welfare policies
  • empowered society
  • locality-based welfare system
  • sustainable welfare


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