Please start by reading this very well summarized article of the Economist, then let's discuss it.

=> Economist : Europe's social policies offer a heady and intoxicating mixture

Basically, there are 4 types of social welfare regarding employment in Europe (former EU 15) divided by region :

- Mediteranean : high job protection, low unemployment benefit
- Continental : high job protection, high unemployment benefit
- Nordic : low job protection, high unemployment benefit
- English-speaking : low job protection, low unemployment benefit

Which one do you think is the best ? Personally, I favour the Nordic one, as it has suceeded in creating a society with low unemployment (the government helps people find jobs) and low poverty rate (those who can't find jobs get a generous dole).

Let us not forget that there are other similarities or differences (not mentioned in the article) between European countries in term of social welfare. All of them have free education and heavily subsidised health care. Yet, in some countries health is totally free (e.g. the UK), in others it is free in public hospitals (e.g. Spain), and in others it is cheap but not free (eg.g Belgium, France).

Higher education (university, college...) is also cheaper (almost completely free) in some countries than in others. The UK may have the most expensive higher education system for students, although it remains very democratic, and children from poorer families can get grants fairly easily. The UK is also the only country (with Ireland ?) to have 3-year degrees instead of 4-year ones (or more) at university level.