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

The progress of social development in South Africa

M. Gray (guest editor)

International Journal of Social Welfare, vol. 17, 2008, p. 109-196

This special issue examines the progress and challenges of South Africa's unique experiment in implementing the macro policy of social development, particularly in the social welfare sector. The scale of change needed to reduce poverty and inequality in South Africa - the explicit goal of social development - is huge. South Africa has developed state-of-the-art social policies through widespread public consultation, but their implementation has proved challenging. The articles in this special issue provide a record of attempts to improve the institutional infrastructure inherited from the apartheid regime while transforming welfare practices to foster social justice in partnership with civil society and stimulating rapid economic growth.

Between ideas, institutions and interests: analysing Third Way reform programmes in Germany and the United Kingdom

J. Hudson, G.-J. Hwang and S. Kuhner

Social Policy Journal, vol. 37, 2008, p. 207-230

This article examines the detail of welfare state reform agendas in two countries in which self-proclaimed 'Third Way' governments have been in power - Germany and the United Kingdom - to explore the competing influences on social policy of a common set of ideas and significantly different legacy institutions. In so doing, it assesses the analytic utility of Bevir and Rhodes' ideationally rooted interpretive approach against institutionally rooted claims of path dependency. It concludes that while the interpretive approach rightly stresses the need for a stronger focus on ideas as an explanation for policy change, the detail of actual Third Way policy reforms can only be understood from within the two nations' institutionalised policy legacies.

A cautionary discussion about relying on human capital policy to meet redistributive goals

D.A. Green

Canadian Public Policy, vol. 33, 2007, p. 397-418

Human capital policy has come to be seen as something of a panacea. Investing in a highly skilled workforce is described as both necessary for competition with other nations and an effective redistributive policy. Redistribution occurs because training less skilled workers gives them access to higher paid jobs. Reforms to the social security safety net over the last 15 years have focused on human capital creation. One can view recent changes in Canada's social policy as moving towards a model in which individuals are provided with educational opportunities at the outset of life, but little in the way of income support thereafter. This article investigates the empirical evidence and theoretical arguments behind the claim that increasing skills investment opportunities and tying transfers to human capital investments while decreasing traditional income support will ultimately lead to a more just society.

Choice and values: individualised rational action and social goals

P. Taylor-Gooby

Social Policy Journal, vol. 37, 2008, p. 167-185

An important response to pressures currently faced by welfare states is the introduction of new public management and activation policies. These seek to harness rational individual choice expressed in quasi-market and target-driven welfare institutions to achieve cost-efficient and responsive services. At the same time, corresponding policies encourage users to become more actively engaged as individuals in choices that influence outcomes for them. The research discussed in this article draws attention to the complexities of people's responses to incentives, and particularly to the significance of context in shaping action and institutional framework in shaping values. There is a risk that the substitution of market for citizenship-based interactions may tend to promote different values. Those who participate in individualising institutional frameworks may become less supportive of collective welfare provision and of redistribution to distant and disadvantaged groups.

The contemporary social policy debate in Latin America

R. Cortés

Global Social Policy, vol. 8, 2008, p. 109-114

Neoliberal economic policies implemented in Latin America since the late 1980s were accompanied by state retrenchment in social welfare, and a radical transformation of social security and labour legislation. By the end of the 20th century it was clear that neoliberal strategies had failed to deliver sustained growth and social development. The ensuing crisis and wave of political change brought the issue of social inequality back onto the agenda and led to an ongoing revision and critique of the neoliberal social policy model.

The fertile fields policy? Examining fertility decision-making and policy settings

J.M. Maher

Social Policy and Society, vol. 7, 2008, p. 159-172

This article examines the relationship between family policy and individual fertility decisions using data generated through an in-depth interview study in Australia in 2002 and 2003. Conducted at a time of widespread debate about a nationally funded maternity leave scheme, the study revealed little maternity policy knowledge and awareness, little impact on first time mothers in terms of decision-making and a more significant, but not determinative relationship between maternity policy settings and second or subsequent pregnancies. All respondents, however, drew on commonplace accounts of family-work incompatibility as they outlined their childbearing decisions. This suggested that, in the Australian context, the social landscape in which families considered decisions about children was influenced by the policy landscape, even where direct knowledge of policies was not exhibited. The author then goes on to consider in more depth the ways in which policy settings are linked to how women consider fertility choices in the context of employment.

International organizations and social insurance in Mexico

M. Dion

Global Social Policy, vol. 8, 2008, p. 25-44

This article addresses the question of how international organisations influence domestic social policy, using the development of social insurance in Mexico as a case study. It compares the influence of the International Labour Organisation on the creation of the Mexican Social Insurance Institute in 1943 with that of the World Bank on pension and health care reform in the 1990s. At both periods, the international organisation involved contributed technical expertise and information to the policy formation process. However, in the 1990s the World Bank also used financial incentives to influence the direction of reform, whereas in the 1940s existing international conventions and standards were brought to bear to shape the system.

Political and philosophical debates in welfare

A. Fives

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008

The book presents a critical overview of political philosophies of welfare. It examines classic justifications of the welfare state and then discusses recent attempts to provide alternative approaches to political theory, such as political liberalism, postmodernism, and the new-right. Based on the author's teaching, the book engages with both the philosophical roots of ideas and their application in institutional structures.

The social division of welfare surveillance

P. Henman and G. Marston

Social Policy Journal, vol. 37, 2008, p. 187-205

Just over 50 years ago, Richard Titmuss identified three major categories of social welfare: social, fiscal and occupational. Social welfare is defined as the range of social services and benefits provided by the state, such as education, healthcare, housing and social security. Fiscal welfare is the benefits that individuals receive through the taxation system, such as mortgage relief. Occupational benefits are those which individuals receive through employment, including sick pay and occupational pensions. Using Australia as a case study, the authors demonstrate variations in welfare surveillance between the social, fiscal and occupational domains. Just as different moral valuations - such as the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor - contributed to differences in welfare surveillance between welfare domains, the same moral valuations operate in a more graduated way to support differential levels of surveillance within one welfare domain. For example, within the social welfare system, social insurance benefits often involve less intrusive surveillance than social assistance, and surveillance of old age pensions is less intrusive than that for disability pensions.

Social welfare policy: preferences of Arab and Jewish social workers in Israel

I. Weiss-Gal and J. Gal

Families in Society, vol. 89, 2008, p. 129-138

There appears to be a firm consensus among scholars that, as part of the profession's commitment to social and economic justice, all social workers should support the welfare state. However race is often assumed to be a potentially major influence on attitudes toward social welfare policy, especially in divided societies such as the United States and Israel. Seeking to advance understanding of the impact of race and nationality on the attitudes of social workers towards social welfare policy, this study compared the views of Jewish and Arab social workers in Israel. The findings indicate that Israeli social workers generally, regardless of nationality, support the welfare state even though they express a lack of enthusiasm for financing it and a degree of scepticism regarding its impact. However Arab social workers favoured greater spending increases than Jews in the fields of education, human services and unemployment benefits. They were also more inclined to believe that the government is responsible for social welfare.

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