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

Activation as a common framework for social policies towards lone parents

T. Knijn, C. Martin and J. Millar

Social Policy and Administration, vol. 41, 2007, p. 638-652

This article compares recent social policy reforms aimed at lone parents in France, the Netherlands and the UK. Each of these countries is promoting employment for lone parents as the road out of poverty and benefit dependency. This article explores whether there are significant differences in activation policies for lone parents between the two continental welfare regimes and the liberal welfare regime of the UK. Each of these countries has moved from the model of supporting lone parents to be full-time mothers at home towards an employment-based model. They have also introduced increased in-work financial support through means-tested transfers and tax credits and have paid attention to the need to offer childcare services and subsidies, parental leave and flexible working. Finally, all three have emphasised tailored and individualised activation services.

Continental drift: on unemployment policy change in Bismarckian welfare states

D. Clegg

Social Policy and Administration, vol. 41, 2007, p. 597-617

Despite it being generally agreed that Bismarckian welfare states are stable and not prone to policy change, this article shows that Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands have witnessed considerable change in the field of unemployment policy over the past 25 years. Furthermore, the trajectory of change is often remarkably similar in all four countries, notwithstanding their considerable social, political and economic differences. It is argued that Bismarckian welfare institutions are crucial for understanding changes to the unemployment policies of these countries, and not merely for explaining their supposed inertia. Generally policies have enhanced protection for 'insiders', while targeting both benefit cuts and activation initiatives on 'outsiders'. After 25 years of reforms these countries have neither fully activating nor fully compensatory welfare states, but ones that combine these facets in apparent contradiction. Though they have not blocked unemployment policy change entirely, Bismarckian welfare institutions have influenced and probably constrained it.

Factors that influence workfare program participants: focusing on South Korea's Self-Sufficiency Program

T.K. Kim and K.A. Zurlo

International Social Work, vol. 50, 2007, p. 796-808

In response to the 1997 Asian economic crisis, South Korea launched a new policy initiative called productive welfare. Policymakers implementing this initiative developed a welfare system intended to promote capability of individual self-sufficiency through work rather than expanding the social security safety net through increases in benefits. At present, those between 18 and 65 can receive welfare benefits if their income falls below the poverty line, but are required to participate in the Self-Sufficiency Programme to maintain their welfare entitlement. This study describes the factors that facilitate or deter self-sufficiency by empirically analysing the dynamic between characteristics of participants in this workfare programme and their performance in the programme, comparing those who became self-sufficient with those who did not.

Fathers' use of leave in Australia

G. Whitehouse, C. Diamond and M. Baird

Community, Work and Family, vol.10, 2007, p. 387-407

In Australia, working parents have a shared entitlement to unpaid parental leave, none of which is reserved for the father. This arrangement reflects the fact that a high proportion of couple families with young children follow the traditional male breadwinner model. This paper examines Australian fathers' use of leave at the time of the birth of a child, drawing on data from the Parental Leave in Australia Survey conducted in 2005 and a subsequent organisational case study. The analysis shows that although Australian fathers take some leave for parental purposes, use of formally designated paternity or parental leave is low. This is unsurprising given the Australian policy framework . The analysis suggests that improvements in the policy framework would increase Australian fathers' propensity to take parental leave.

'I try not to depend on anyone but me': welfare-reliant women's perspectives on self-sufficiency, work and marriage

E.K. Scott, A.S. London and G. Gross

Sociological Inquiry, vol. 77, 2007, p. 601-625

The US federal government has over the past ten years sought to reduce dependency and encourage self-sufficiency among welfare-dependent men and women. Welfare-dependent women are expected to attain economic self-sufficiency through either paid work or marriage to an employed husband. This study uses longitudinal, qualitative interview data from 38 initially welfare dependent women to explore what self-sufficiency means to them and their perspectives on how work and marriage affect their ability to be self-sufficient. Analysis revealed that for these women self-sufficiency means independence from the state in the shape of cash benefits and men in the shape of marriage. They do not see marriage as a route to self-sufficiency given the pool of men available to them, but look to paid work as the best route to independence.

The impact of provider choice on workers' compensation costs and recovery

D. Neumark, P.S. Barth and R.A. Victor

Industrial and Labor Relations Review, vol. 61, 2007, p. 121-142

Over the past decades, US public policy changes in workers' compensation have placed new restrictions on the ability of injured workers to choose their own medical providers. For example, in order to contain rising costs, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a number of states modified 'employee choice' laws to require workers to select providers from networks of approved physicians created by the employer. This paper provides estimates of the relationships between provider choice and a variety of workers' compensation outcomes, including medical and indemnity (cash benefits) costs, return to work, physical recovery, and worker satisfaction with medical care. Results show that costs were generally higher and return-to-work outcomes poorer when workers selected the provider, even though the two groups of workers reported similar recovery of physical health. However, workers selecting their own provider reported higher satisfaction with overall care. When employee choice is subdivided into choice of a new provider versus one who has treated the employee previously, results show that the adverse cost and return-to-work outcomes are largely associated with employee choice of new providers.

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