Click here to skip to content

Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2008): Welfare state - overseas

Bounded rationality and policy diffusion: social sector reform in Latin America

K. Weyland

Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006

Why do very different countries often emulate the same policy model? Two years after Ronald Reagan's income-tax simplification of 1986, Brazil adopted a similar reform even though it threatened to exacerbate income disparity and jeopardize state revenues. And Chile's pension privatization of the early 1980s has spread throughout Latin America and beyond even though many poor countries that have privatized their social security systems, including Bolivia and El Salvador, lack some of the preconditions necessary to do so successfully. In a major step beyond conventional rational-choice accounts of policy decision-making, this book demonstrates that bounded - not full - rationality drives the spread of innovations across countries. When seeking solutions to domestic problems, decision-makers often consider foreign models, sometimes promoted by development institutions like the World Bank. But, as the book argues, policymakers apply inferential shortcuts at the risk of distortions and biases. Through an in-depth analysis of pension and health reform in Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Peru, the book demonstrates that decision-makers are captivated by neat, bold, cognitively available models. And rather than thoroughly assessing the costs and benefits of external models, they draw excessively firm conclusions from limited data and overextrapolate from spurts of success or failure. Indications of initial success can thus trigger an upsurge of policy diffusion.

Conservative ideas and social policy in the United States

D. Beland and A. Waddan

Social Policy and Administration, vol. 41, 2007, p. 768-786

This article explores social policy development since the beginning of the presidency of George W. Bush. From an analysis of the discourse about compassionate conservatism at the centre of the 2000 presidential campaign to a discussion of the meaning of the ownership society blueprint featured in the 2004 campaign, the article illustrates the fragmented nature of the conservative policy agenda in the United States. It is suggested that, despite this ideological fragmentation, the political dominance of the right and the related absence of reform to update existing social programmes are of great significance for the future of federal social policy. It is argued that the old liberal and the traditionalist sides of American conservatism have inspired distinct yet related blueprints and reform proposals that promote a scaling down of existing federal social programmes and a return to traditional forms of economic security such as charity and personal savings.

Eleven obstacles to translating research into policy on gender-based violence

J. Spangaro

Evidence and Policy, vol. 3, 2007, p. 553-566

This article presents an insiderís view, based on eight years of policy experience on gender-related violence in the heath department of the State of New South Wales, Australia. It reviews some of the reasons why research often fails to be incorporated into policy, and considers how the divide may be bridged. Eleven different obstacles are described that relate to issues including mismatched timeframes, unavailability of comprehensive data, the local relevance of overseas research, the constraints imposed by the evidence-based policy movement, the need to address different audiences, and the feasibility of implementation.

Low fertility and policy

P. McDonald

Ageing Horizons, issue 7, 2007, p. 22-27

The only policy lever available to policy makers attempting to counter population ageing is to seek to raise the birth rate. Young women today are influenced by their perceptions of the extent to which the institutions of their society are supportive of those who have children. Very low fertility is associated with policies and social institutions founded on the male breadwinner model of society. Governments need to specify comprehensive reform packages that will give young people confidence to form families without adversely affecting their economic well being.

'More than the sum of its parts': social policy and expressive collective action

P. Jones

Social Policy and Society, vol. 7, 2008, p. 27-40

Neoclassical economic theory focuses on instrumental motivation, but people do not always behave in this way in response to social policies. For example, donated blood supply in Ireland did not increase when payments to donors were introduced. Individuals can act altruistically even when they believe that action by one person will make little difference. This paper describes how policies can be designed to encourage people to act as good citizens because they believe it is 'the right thing to do'.

Social policy and human rights: re-thinking the engagement

H. Dean

Social Policy and Society, vol.7, 2008, p.1-12

It is argued that the concept of welfare rights, which has developed from T.H. Marshallís distinction between civil and political rights and social or welfare rights, provides a clearer and more explicit basis for an international call for the progressive development of social policies than, for example, the human rights approach to poverty reduction currently espoused by the United Nations Development programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Social rights continue to be a relatively marginalised element of the human rights agenda and may be more effectively harnessed by way of a welfare rights approach based on a politics of needs interpretation.

Search Welfare Reform on the Web