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Welfare Reform on the Web (July 2007): Social security - overseas

Changing the development policy paradigm: investing in a social security floor for all

M. Cichon and K. Hagemejer

International Social Security Review, vol. 60, Apr.-Sept. 2007, p. 169-196

The authors make the case for the implementation of a universal social security floor. Such a floor would enable the poor to increase their incomes as well as helping to legitimate globalisation. A global social security floor could consist of:

  • Access to healthcare through pluralistic national systems (tax-financed as well as social, private and micro insurance)
  • A system of family benefits that permits children to attend school
  • A system of cash-for-work programmes that helps overcome abject poverty for those able to work
  • Development of a system of basic universal pensions for old age, disability and survivorship that would support whole families

The article estimates the global minimum investment cost of basic social security provision and finally suggests international instruments for the introduction of a global social security floor.

The Dutch 'miracle' revisited: the impact of employment growth on poverty

I. Marx

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 36, 2007, p. 383-397

The past decade has been marked by the coming to prominence of the idea that poverty reduction is best achieved through increased levels of labour market participation. A major reference point in the debate is the Netherlands, where a radical policy shift from passive benefit receipt towards boosting labour market participation was initiated in the late 1980s and has been pursued ever since. The Netherlands is praised for achieving a meteoric rise in employment while maintaining extensive social protection and low levels of poverty and inequality. This article, however, presents evidence suggesting that massive employment growth during the 1980s and 1990s was accompanied by a small reduction in absolute poverty and a rise in relative poverty among the working age population. Employment growth benefited mainly dual earner families, while those on low incomes were adversely affected by failure to raise benefits and the minimum wage in line with inflation.

Extending social security coverage: concepts, global trends and policy issues

W. van Ginneken

International Social Security Review, vol. 60, Apr.-Sept. 2007, p. 39-57

There is a plurality of methods and approaches to extending social security coverage in terms of the three dimensions of persons, contingencies and benefit levels. This plurality of approaches is often the result of different economic and political circumstances, and the historical development of the country in question. This article reviews the experience of a number of countries in extending the coverage of their social security systems, focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China.

The present and future role of ILO standards in realizing the right to social security

U. Kulke

International Social Security Review, vol.60, Apr.-Sept. 2007, p. 119-141

Since the end of World War II, the right to social security has been enshrined in various international human rights conventions, including the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Depending on level of development, the ICESCR allows countries the 'progressive realization' of rights conferred by the Covenant. In addition, every state party to the Covenant has a basic obligation to ensure a minimum level of enjoyment of every right. However, this basket of minimum rights has not been legally defined. According to the ILO, the 'core content' of the right to social security should comprise the three elements of:

  • access to basic healthcare
  • basic family benefits
  • basic social pensions for old age and disability.

State obligations to provide these basic benefits could be legally expressed in a new ILO instrument that would promote universal provision of a defined set of basic benefits and lay down an obligation to increase the level of protection in line with economic development.

The role of tax-financed social security

A. Barrientos

International Social Security Review, vol. 60, Apr.-Sept. 2007, p. 99-117

This article presents a review of the experiences of developing countries with tax-financed social assistance schemes. These schemes have grown spectacularly, especially in middle-income countries. They aim to deal with and eradicate the causes of poverty and head off the threat of social unrest due to the growth of insecure informal employment. New forms of tax-financed social security in low- and middle-income countries consist of conditional income transfers. In some cases the condition is that the beneficiary households provide work. In other cases conditions extend to children attending school or household members attending primary healthcare on a regular basis. Income transfers are also increasingly embedded in integrated anti-poverty programmes providing basic services such as healthcare and education. The programmes focus on the household rather than the individual or the community.

Social security in a globalizing world

K.P. Kannan

International Social Security Review, vol.60, Apr.-Sept 2007, p.19-37

Argues that the state, especially in developing countries, should work towards providing two forms of social security. Basic social security would provide all citizens with the means to lead a dignified life. Contingent social security would protect against adversity in the form of old age, injury or sickness. The article also attempts to show how low-income countries can learn from the historic experience of the Western nations in developing social security systems.

'Work First' and immigrants in Toronto

A. Mitchell, E. Lightman and D. Herd

Social Policy and Society, vol. 6, 2007, p. 293-307

This paper examines the experiences of immigrants in Toronto as they pass through, and leave, Ontario Works, a 'Work First' approach to social assistance that prioritises rapid labour force attachment. It examines the Ontario Works activities of immigrants compared to native born Canadians and their respective post-intervention job characteristics. Results show that immigrants experience a significant relative wage disadvantage after participation, and substantially less wage growth when moving into their second post-welfare job. It is concluded that the Ontario Works scheme, like most 'work first' initiatives is ill-suited to addressing earnings disadvantage among immigrants. It fails to address the barriers faced by immigrants seeking to enter the Canadian labour market such as credentialism, the discounting of foreign education, and overt discrimination.

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