Click here to skip to content

Welfare Reform on the Web (June 2006): Social security - overseas

Downscaling, upgrading or linking? Ways to realize micro-insurance

M. Loewe

International Social Security Review, vol.59, Apr.-June 2006, p.37-59

Micro-insurance schemes protect the very poor working in the informal economy against health risks (medical insurance), life-cycle risks (disability insurance), property damage, third party liability and harvest failure. Public institutions and commercial companies face serious problems in reaching the target group for micro-insurance because of their high administration costs, and the lack of reliable information about the circumstances of potential clients working in the informal economy as well as because many low-income earners do not trust them. Non-governmental organisations and self-help groups, on the other hand, lack the know-how and business contacts needed for stable and reliable micro-insurance arrangements. They need powerful partners to upgrade their services. Article recommends a linking approach under which formal and informal institutions would co-operate in providing micro-insurance.

Impact of the unemployment benefit system on the mental well-being of the unemployed in Sweden, Ireland and Great Britain.

M. Nordenmark, M. Strandh and R. Layte

European Societies, vol.8, 2006, p.83-110

Research has shown that unemployment has a serious negative effect on people’s mental well being. Many factors influence the impact of unemployment on psychological well-being including individual characteristics such as work orientation and household factors such as availability of social support. Although economic strain among the unemployed has been shown to be the most powerful predictor of mental distress, little has been written about the influence of the state benefit system on the experience of unemployment. This paper compares the impact of the benefit regime on the mental well-being of the unemployed in Britain, Ireland and Sweden. Results show that more generous income replacement benefits are more effective in reducing economic strain and mental distress than flat-rate benefits. Results show that different systems differentially impact on different social classes and groups, with income replacement benefits tending to maintain pre-unemployment differences in distress and flat-rate benefits equalising these differences.

Non-employment and the welfare state: the United Kingdom and Germany compared

J. Clasen and others

Journal of European Social Policy, vol.16, 2006, p.134-154

This article investigates the possible influence of the structure of welfare benefits on transitions into and out of the labour market, be they intended, e.g. increasing moves into employment, or unintended, e.g. lowering labour market participation. For example, in the UK the introduction of Incapacity Benefit may have re-routed some groups into economic inactivity instead of into employment. The implementation of the Job Seekers’ Allowance certainly reduced transitions from paid work into unemployment by fostering flows into inactivity among prime-age men. In Germany, structurally less significant legislative changes aimed at scaling down transitions to early retirement via long-term unemployment seem to have had no measurable effects, while changes in eligibility criteria for Incapacity Benefit appear to have had the desired result of increasing labour market attachment.

People and places: welfare reform and the separate effects of caseload characteristics and local conditions

J.N. Zimmerman, S.J. Goetz and D.L. Debertin

Sociological Spectrum, vol.26, 2006, p.289-308

Earlier studies have failed to examine the impact of the characteristics of people receiving cash welfare benefits and local employment availability on changes in welfare caseload levels. Using econometric modelling, this paper explores the separate effects of US county conditions and caseload characteristics on changes in the levels of cash assistance caseloads. Results indicated that both the personal characteristics of claimants and the local job market had a separate and independent effect on welfare caseload reductions.

Promoting freedom from poverty: political mobilization and the role of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union

D. Zoelle and J. Josephson

Feminist Review, issue 82, 2006, p.6-26

The US Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act 1996 eliminated the entitlement of low-income women to state support which had been in effect since the 1930s. The Kensington Welfare Rights Union, in co-operation with other organisations, has begun to challenge this policy on the basis of international human rights agreements. They argue that some minimal guarantee of economic well-being should be provided in any democratic society, especially one as wealthy as the US.

Recent changes to the employment insurance regime: encouraging work on-claim and off-claim

D. M. Gray

Canadian Public Policy, vol.32, 2006, p.99-108

This article evaluates two aspects of the 1996 Canadian Employment Insurance reform package. The first is the small weeks initiative, which encourages more working activity while qualifying for benefits. The second provision is the “allowable earnings” regulation which is designed to encourage claimants to accept short-term work while receiving benefits. These measures focus on claimants with fragmented, precarious and often seasonal employment patterns. The provisions only act within the time horizon of the current employment insurance claim, but do not operate over a multiple-claim time horizon. They may have the unintended consequence of weakening incentives at attain long-term independence from employment insurance.

Reforming family transfers in Southern Europe: is there a role for universal child benefit?

M. Matsaganis and others

Social Policy and Society, vol.5, 2006, p.189-197

The aim of this paper is to assess the effect of actual family transfers in Southern Europe (looking at both cash benefits and tax relief) and to predict the impact of universal child benefits. A key finding is that replacing current forms of assistance with universal child benefits may not reduce the number of children in poverty by much, and could even raise it. This could happen if current policies provide relatively generous assistance to a large number of low-income families, as in Italy where family allowance is means tested and categorically targeted.

Social policymaking and its institutional basis: transition of the Chinese social security system

Ka Lin and O. Kangas

International Social Security Review, vol.59, Apr.-June 2006, p.61-76

This article discusses the development of Chinese social policy in response to the growth of the market economy. It provides an overview of the system’s evolution in three stages. The social security system was constructed by the socialist regime from the 1950s. This system is characterised as “enterprise welfare”, in which work units provided their employees with generous benefits in accordance with state regulation. Reform of this system started in the mid-1980s as part of the move towards a market economy. Unemployment insurance was introduced in 1986 with the ending of life-long guaranteed employment contracts and personal savings accounts were added to the pension system in 1991. The former medical insurance scheme was divided into two parts: one for serious illness and one for basic care. Public housing owned by work units was privatised. In the final stages of the reform, state-sponsored welfare institutions began to take shape to compensate for the break-up of the enterprise-based system.

Welfare reform in the United States: gender, race and class matter

M. Abramovitz

Critical Social Policy, vol.26, 2006, p.336-364

This article presents a brief, historical overview of the US welfare programme for single mothers and describes the main provisions of welfare reform (enforcing work, promoting marriage and limiting the role of the federal government in society) and identifies its impact on women and children. It concludes that welfare reform is not simply mean-spirited but is part of a neo-liberal effort to downsize the state.

Search Welfare Reform on the Web