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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2012): Social security - overseas

Combating in-work poverty in continental Europe: an investigation using the Belgian case

I. Marx, J. Vanhille and G. Verbist

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 41, 2012, p. 19-41

Combating in-work poverty is an issue that affects all Europe. Progress has been made in Anglo-Saxon countries through working tax credits and minimum wage hikes, but there are constraints to implementing these measures in continental Europe. In the first place minimum wage rates are already fairly high and in-work poverty may arise more from high taxes and social security contributions. Secondly, social security and wage rate setting remain largely the prerogative of the social partners, and outwith central government control. This article looks at what higher minimum wages and targeted tax reductions can do to reduce in-work poverty. It also considers the potential impact of a UK-style tax credit. A general discussion is complemented with microsimulation analyses for Belgium that serve to illustrate the points made.

Effectiveness of social welfare programmes in East Asia: a case study of Taiwan

C.-C. Huang and Y.-W. Ku

Social Policy and Administration, vol. 45, 2011, p. 733-751

Using the 2008 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, this study analysed the cost and effectiveness of Taiwan's current social welfare system, including the shopping voucher programme, and compared it with other Asian and OECD countries. The results showed that Taiwan's means-tested social assistance programmes were relatively inexpensive and effectively reduced income inequality and poverty. Using the OECD poverty threshold, 14% of the families in the sample were poor in terms of market income, but this figure fell to 7% after government intervention. It is concluded that the need to remain competitive in global markets will limit any expansion of social welfare and Taiwan will continue to depend on means-tested social assistance programmes to reduce both poverty and income inequality.

Researching governmentalities through ethnography: the case of Australian welfare reforms and programs for single parents

M. Brady

Critical Policy Studies, vol. 5, 2011, p. 264-282

This article focuses on the Australian Welfare to Work provisions that required recipients of Parenting Payment, an income support payment for those with low income who are primary carers of dependent children, to seek part time work. It uses ethnographic and documentary materials to illustrate differences between the political rationalities and technologies developed by the Australian government (a top-down perspective) and the ways that service providers contracted by the Australian government delivered the programmes (a bottom up perspective). It is argued that the actual practices that service providers use to govern Parenting Payment clients sometimes explicitly contest official discourses. While the existing literature suggests that current policy treats single mothers as degendered workers, this study illustrates that many service providers recognise single mothers as mothers and have created spaces within which these mothers can discuss and struggle over practices of combining mothering and paid work.

Virtues of SIN: can intensified public efforts help disadvantaged immigrants?

O. Åslund and P. Johansson

Evaluation Review, vol. 35, 2011, p. 399-427

The labour market integration of immigrants is a top political priority for OECD countries. This research evaluates a Swedish Special Introduction (SIN) programme which targeted immigrants and refugees considered capable of taking a job immediately, but at risk of becoming long-term unemployed. The programme was supposed to use 'supported employment' methods originally designed for disabled workers, but in fact relied on counselling each applicant, intense efforts to find work for the clients, and careful matching of job seekers with employers. Results show that the programme as implemented worked relatively well. It increased the rate of transition to work experience schemes. Entry to work experience schemes was associated with higher chances of gaining employment.

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