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Welfare Reform on the Web (November 2007): Social security - overseas

Active labour market policy, international organizations and domestic politics

K. Armingeon

Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 14, 2007, p. 905-932

This paper investigates the role of international organizations in developing national active labour market policies. The publication of the OECD's Job Study, which advocated active labour market policy, did not result in an increase in systematic efforts in this direction by national governments. On the other hand, higher rates of spending on active, as opposed to passive, labour market policies were found in EU countries after the inauguration of the European Employment Strategy. However, the active labour market policies of governments of EU member states are not qualitatively more efficient than those in other OECD countries. These findings point to a dilemma for international organisations wishing to spread best practice. If they want to develop coherent proposals, they need to be isolated to a large extent from national politics. If they do isolate themselves, their advice may well be largely disregarded on a national level. In contrast, if they are open to national political influences, there is a fair chance that proposals will be implemented. The downside is that the proposals will reflect national political concerns and will therefore be compromises with little chance of reaching their stated goals.

Between workfare and enablement: the different paths to transformation of the welfare state: a comparative analysis of activating labour market policies

I. Dingeldey

European Journal of Political Research, vol. 46, 2007, p. 823-851

It is widely agreed that active labour market policies combine, on the one hand, the enforcement of labour market participation, the conditionality of rights, and the placing of increasing obligations on individual workers, and, on the other hand, an expansion of services intended to increase employability and restore social equity. Broadly speaking, the workfare approach emphasises the negative aspects of these developments, while the enabling state approach underlines the positive elements. This article analyses active labour market policies in Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark, which represent three different welfare state types as defined by Esping-Andersen. It traces the actual path of reform in these countries in terms of the differing combinations of workfare and enabling policies in each.

The EU integration process and the convergence of social protection benefits at national level

J. Alsasua, J. Bilbao-Ubillos and J. Olaskoaga

International Journal of Social Welfare, vol. 16, 2007, p. 297-306

This article proposes a test of convergence of European social protection systems in a specific area: levels of expenditure on social protection, defined as per capita spending on social protection benefits. The empirical research focuses on the period from 1985 to 1999 and investigates whether differences in welfare provision levels decreased as European integration progressed. The usual empirical tests of convergence show a picture of convergence in the 11 countries analysed between 1985 and 1999. However an alternative analysis shows countries following a range of different paths. Some of these paths can be classed as convergent, e.g. in Portugal, which has been working to catch up, and in Germany, where social protection efforts seem to have ground to a halt. Other countries, such as Denmark stand out for having intensified their social protection efforts, while Ireland provides an example of the dangers of social dumping.

The impact of HIV/AIDS on social security contributions: the case of Zimbabwe

H.N. Chikova and C.F. Chinamasa

International Social Security Review, vol. 60, no.4, 2007, p. 23-46

All people in formal employment in Zimbabwe, except domestic workers, are required to make monthly contributions to the National Pension and Other Benefits Scheme (NPOBS). A ceiling is imposed by government on insurable earnings as and when the Minister responsible thinks fit, after receiving actuarial advice. The NPOBS contribution base is under threat from the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has caused an upsurge in mortality and morbidity among people of working age and so reduced the number of contributors to the scheme. The Zimbabwean economy has also undergone recession in the past decade, with high inflation and a significant rise in unemployment and emigration which has further eroded the NPOBS contribution base. The main aim of this study was to prospectively project the potential impact of HIV/AIDS and and the imposition of contribution ceilings on NPOBS income in Zimbabwe.

Social protection and poverty in Azerbaijan, a low-income country in transition: implications of a household survey

N. Habibov and L. Fan

International Social Security Review, vol. 60, no.4, 2007, p. 47-68

Using a nationally representative survey, this study examines the performance of the social protection system in Azerbaijan from the perspective of poverty reduction. Results show that, overall, social protection in Azerbaijan deceases poverty. However, poverty is still widespread, and the empirical evidence presented shows the limitations of the existing social protection system. These limitations can be attributed to three major factors: 1) a significant number of poor households do not receive any benefits because they are not covered by the system; 2) even those that are covered typically receive a smaller proportion of total benefits than the non-poor; and 3) most social transfers are too small to lift households out of poverty. The main cause of these shortcomings is that the current system is dominated by social insurance programmes, notably the old-age pension, which are not explicitly aimed at poverty reduction and which do not cover the significant numbers of poor people working in the informal economy.

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