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Welfare state

From Academic Kids

There are three main interpretations of the idea of a welfare state:

  • the provision of welfare services by the state.
  • an ideal model in which the state assumes primary responsibility for the welfare of its citizens. This responsibility is comprehensive, because all aspects of welfare are considered; a "safety net" is not enough, and nor are minimum standards. It is universal, because it covers every person as a matter of right.
  • the provision of welfare in society. In many "welfare states", especially in continental Europe, welfare is not actually provided by the state, but by a combination of independent, voluntary, mutualist and government services. The functional provider of benefits and services may be a central or state government, a state-sponsored company or agency, a private corporation, a charity or another form of non-profit organisation.
Contents

The development of welfare states

Modern welfare states developed through a gradual process beginning in the late 19th century and continuing through the 20th. They differed from previous schemes of poverty relief due to their relatively universal coverage. The development of social insurance in Germany under Bismarck was particularly influential. Some schemes, like those in Scandinavia, were based largely in the development of autonomous, mutualist provision of benefits. Others were founded on state provision. The term was not, however, applied to all states offering social protection. The sociologist T H Marshall identified the welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare and capitalism.

Examples of early welfare states in the modern world are the Sweden and New Zealand of the 1930s. Changed attitudes in reaction to the Great Depression were instrumental in the move to the welfare state in many countries, a harbinger of new times where "cradle-to-grave" services became a reality after the poverty of the Depression. In the period following the Second World War, many countries in Europe moved from partial or selective provision of social services to relatively comprehensive coverage of the population.

Arguments for and against the Welfare State

The concept of the Welfare State remains extremly controversial, and there is continuing debate over governments' responsibility for citizens' well being.

Arguments in favor

  • humanitarian - the idea that people should not suffer unnecessarily
  • democratic - voters in most countries have favoured the gradual extension of social protection
  • ethical - the doctrine of altruism treats charity as a moral obligation
  • religious - including both the duty of charity and the obligation for solidarity
  • mutual self-interest - several national systems have developed voluntarily through the growth of mutual insurance
  • economic - social programs can achieve goals in welfare economics
  • social - social programs promote goals regarding education, family and work

Arguments against

The welfare state and social expenditure

Welfare provision in the contemporary world tends to be more advanced in the countries with stronger and more developed nations; poorer countries generally have more limited welfare services. Within developed economies, however, there is no association between economic performance and welfare expenditure (see A. B. Atkinson, Incomes and the Welfare State, Cambridge University Press 1995).

The figures below show welfare expenditure as a percentage of GDP for OECD member states:

Denmark 29.2
Sweden 28.9
France 28.5
Germany 27.4
Belgium 27.2
Switzerland 26.4
Austria 26.0
Finland 24.8
Italy 24.4
Greece 24.3
Norway 23.9
Poland 23.0
United Kingdom 21.8
Netherlands 21.8
Portugal 21.1
Luxembourg 20.8
Czech Republic 20.1
Hungary 20.1
Iceland 19.8
Spain 19.6
New Zealand 18.5
Australia 18.0
Slovak Republic 17.9
Canada 17.8
Japan 16.9
United States 14.8
Ireland 13.8
Mexico 11.8
South Korea 6.1

Figures from the OECD for 2001 [1] (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/56/37/31613113.xls)

See also

External links

Data and statistics

eo:Sociala Sxtato es:Estado de bienestar et:Heaoluriik fr:ษtat-providence he:מדינת רווחה nl:Welvaartsstaat simple:Welfare state

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