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Social Policy and the Changing Context for Work and Well-being of Women: Some Notes and Discussion (Draft)
The various significant roles of social policy are now well-known. Quite apart from the direct welfare effects of social policy, there are other political economy-related features of social policy that are of significance. It is now recognized that social policy has direct and indirect economic functions: ensuring consumption smoothing over business cycles, reducing the impact of crises by acting as a built-in stabilizer and generating the wherewithal for economic expansion and productivity increases by enhancing social capacities for growth and development. These roles are necessary when the growth process is inherently more unequal. Social policy is both a driver and simultaneously a product of social and political configurations: a reflection of the balance of class forces and gender relations in that society; existing and changing patterns of hierarchy, discrimination and exclusion; and the extent of social mobilization to demand specific rights of citizens. These aspects affect the degree to which social policy is transformative, or simply reduces existing inequalities, or even reproduces them. All of these issues have particular and sometimes varying resonance for women, who tend to be differentially affected by these processes not only by virtue of class and social category but also even within families because of the gender construction of societies.
Jayati Ghosh is Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Executive Secretary of International Development Economics Associates (Ideas).