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Welfare Reform on the Web (November 2009): Social security - overseas

Dialectics of institutional change: the transformation of social insurance financing in Israel

M. Koreh and M. Shalev

Socio-Economic Review, vol.7, 2009, p. 553-584

Institutional arrangements for financing the welfare state are often believed to be particularly prone to path-dependent processes of reproduction and consequently difficult to reform. Such 'stickiness' is especially likely when income maintenance systems are based on contributions by insured persons, which creates a sense of earned entitlement. The institutional resilience of contributory systems of social insurance turned into a major economic policy issue after the supply-side revolution in economics identified payroll taxes levied on employers as a potentially fatal barrier to employment creation. However, research on Israel presented in this article reveals an unexpected instance of successful but gradual reform. Between 1986 and 1995, the role of employers in financing social insurance in Israel was progressively and unobtrusively eliminated and its cost was transferred in full to the government.

New governance and the case of activation policies: comparing experiences in Denmark and the Netherlands

C. Lindsay and R.W. McQuaid

Social Policy and Administration, vol. 43, 2009, p. 445-463

Drawing on a review of literature and in-depth case study interviews, this article examines the emergence of new forms of governance of activation services for the unemployed in Denmark and the Netherlands. In particular, it focuses on processes of localisation and contracting out of services and examines the extent to which these have delivered benefits in the form of more locally responsive and individually tailored support. In both countries, such new forms of governance have seen public employment services increasingly concerned with gatekeeping and signposting rather than direct provision of support to job seekers. Both countries have also seen local authorities emerge as key players in the activation agenda. In both countries there are concerns that the reduction of the role of the national public employment service will lead to patchy and inconsistent provision.

Unemployment insurance and cultural transmission: theory and application to European unemployment

J.-B. Michau

London: Centre for Economic Performance, 2009

Due to the welfare state, the stigma of claiming social security benefits has been eroded across Europe. Consequently, the work ethic has crumbled, with fewer people in each generation finding it wrong to accept state handouts for doing nothing. Generous unemployment benefits create moral hazard. Workers are partly protected against the consequences of unemployment, so they tend to look for work with less intensity. It is concluded that the decline in the work ethic and a culture of benefits dependency have been key causes of unemployment in Europe since the 1970s.

What determines access to subsidised food by the rural poor? Evidence from India

A.N. Asthana

International Development Planning Review, vol.31, 2009, p. 263-279

Households below the poverty line in India are entitled to receive 35kg of food grains per month, distributed via fair price shops. Federal government agencies procure the grain from farmers, supplemented by imports. The agencies of the state governments receive the grain at a subsidised price from the federal government and distribute it. Analysis of a large database from central India shows that people living in small, remote villages have less access to subsidised food. Access to subsidised food by the rural poor is also limited by their position in the caste hierarchy. There are also problems with corruption in the procurement and distribution system and misidentification of the poor.

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