1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009) | Event: UNRISD - Sida/SAREC Workshop on Social Policy and Equality


UNRISD - Sida/SAREC Workshop on Social Policy and Equality


Abstracts for the UNRISD – Sida/SAREC Workshop on “Social Policy and Equality”, 21-22 February 2006, Buenos Aires


Session 1

Targeting and Universalism in Poverty Reduction
For much of its history, social policy has involved choices about whether the core principle behind social provisioning will be “universalism”, or selectivity through “targeting”. Under universalism, the entire population is the beneficiary of social benefits as a basic right, while under targeting, eligibility to social benefits involves some kind of means-testing to determine the “truly deserving”. Policy regimes are hardly ever purely universal or purely based on targeting, however; they tend to lie somewhere between the two extremes on a continuum, and are often hybrid, but where they lie on this continuum can be decisive in spelling out individuals’ life chances and in characterizing the social order.

Session 2

Social Policy in the Nordic Countries
History shows that the social policy reforms in the Nordic countries are responses to changing economic and social structures, as well as political mobilisation. Universalism emerged as a response to the different needs of the rural and urban populations. The post-war expansion of earnings-related social insurance was a strategy to include workers and salaried employees within the same system. The expansion of services has been a response to ageing populations but is also intrinsically connected to increased female participation in the labour force, as well as in politics. The Nordic experience shows that equality does not necessarily conflict with efficiency.

Session 3

Transforming the Developmental Welfare States in East Asia
This article attempts to explain changes and continuity in the developmental welfare states in Korea and Taiwan within the East Asian context. It first elaborates two strands of welfare developmentalism (selective vs. inclusive), and establishes that the welfare state in both countries fell into the selective category of developmental welfare states before the Asian economic crisis of 1997. The key principles of the selective strand of welfare developmentalism are productivism, selective social investment and authoritarianism; inclusive welfare development is based on productivism, universal social investment and democratic governance. The article then argues that the policy reform toward an inclusive welfare state in Korea and Taiwan was triggered by the need for structural reform in the economy. The need for economic reform, together with democratization, created institutional space in policy-making for advocacy coalitions, which made successful advances towards greater social rights. Finally, the article argues that the experiences of Korea and Taiwan counter the neo-liberal assertion that the role of social policy is minor in economic development, and emphasizes that the idea of an inclusive developmental welfare state should be explored in the wider context of economic and social development.

Session 4

Social Policy in the Middle East: Political, Economic and Gender Dynamics
The presentation will discuss the main findings of the comparative study of social policy in the Middle East and North Africa, based on the companion volume which is part of the UNRISD project on social policy in a regional perspective. The book examines social policy in the Middle East and North Africa in the context of the regional and country-specific political economy. The country studies place social policy in a historical perspective linking social policy to state formation and legitimization in the past, and the implications for the integration of the MENA countries in the global economy at the current time. The presentation will also highlight the gender dynamics of social policy for the MENA region as a whole, with a focus on the socio-economic implications of the family laws.

Session 5

In Search of Inclusive Development: Social Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa
We explore the findings and lessons from the sub-Saharan Africa research project on Social Policy in a Developmental Context. First is the imperative of time sensitivity: the social and economic policies nexus differed significantly before and after the deployment of adjustment programmes; second, is the diversity in social policy outcomes; third is the lack of fit between economic growth indicators and social policy outcomes in many countries. Leadership and policy matter—the latter more so in its local and international dimensions. The policy orthodoxy of the last 25 years is fundamental to the massive entitlement failure in the region.

Session 6

Latin America: A New Developmental Welfare State Model in the Making?
During the 20th Century, the Chilean State presided over the modernization of the country, largely through two successive and violently conflicting strategies, which in a certain sense seem to conform a unity as well. During the process as a whole, the country underwent a painful transition from its old, traditional, agrarian self, to a society into which modern social actors were born. After this transition, the country seems to be once again at the crossroads of yet another momentous shift in its State-led development strategy. However, the emerging State strategy seems to demand a closer engagement with similar and contemporary processes that seem to be taking place throughout Latin America.

Session 7

Macroeconomic Policy and Inequality
This paper will examine the channels through which macroeconomic policy affects income and social inequalities, through a comparative consideration of macroeconomic policies of the past twenty years in the two largest Asian economies of India and China. The attempt will be to assess the changing pattern of spatial and vertical inequalities. The role of fiscal policies, particularly patterns of taxation and distribution of expenditure, the effect of monetary policies and financial liberalisation, and the impact of export orientation and import liberalisation will all be discussed. From these experiences, more general policy conclusions for large developing countries will be drawn.

Session 8

The Transnationalization of the Health Care System in Argentina
This presentation will outline the central objectives and debates of the UNRISD Project entitled “Commercialization of Health Care: Global and Local Dynamics and Policy Responses” emphasizing the privatization and transnationalization of the health care system in Argentina between 1990 and 2001, and the governmental and social movement responses to the 2001 crisis. Moreover, the presentation will analyze the role played by the changing perceptions of the neo-liberal policies that influenced the health sector in Argentina, and the political mechanisms that facilitated the penetration of national and multinational financial capital in the social security system and in the public sector, and the implications for equity.

Session 9

Corporate Social Responsibility and Equality
Institutional reforms associated with both neoliberalism and “good governance”, two of the dominant policy agendas of modern times, have altered the roles and responsibilities of states and transnational corporations in relation to social development. Increasingly such firms are engaging more directly in social service provisioning and claiming to be more responsive to the concerns of multiple “stakeholders” through what has become known as "corporate social responsibility" (CSR). Perspectives on the implications of CSR for social development and equity vary sharply. This presentation examines three aspects: the social protection of disadvantaged groups, redistribution and empowerment. It ends by considering alternative regulatory and developmental approaches that might enhance the contribution of CSR to social development and equity.

Session 10

Gender and Social Policy in a Global Context
This paper explores the interface between gender and social policy in three key, inter-related arenas: the changing nature of labour markets; the institutional basis for social policy formulation (families, communities, markets and states); and the nature of political contestation around social policy. The first section sets out the gendered nature of economic transformations in the late twentieth century, drawing out the implications for gender equality of shifts in the nature of labour markets (especially of both feminization and casualization of labour) and the relationships between paid and unpaid work. The changes in the structure of labour markets are then linked to the discussion of the impacts of social sector restructuring. The second section explores the institutional basis for social policy formulation, examining more closely the assumptions about gender roles and entitlements, especially in the key institutions of family and community and how they interface with the state. The relationship between political democratization and the development of gender equitable social policy is then examined.

Session 11

Democracy, Responsiveness and Well-Being
This paper examines the complex links between democracy, responsiveness and well-being in low-income societies. Theories on the political economy of public expenditures and the growth of government expect societies in which the poor are in the majority to have bigger governments and higher levels of income distribution, including extensive social provisioning. Since the raison d’être of political parties is to win or retain office, public policies will gravitate towards the preferences of the median voter. However, recent trends in democratization suggest that even when the poor are in the majority, democratization has not spurred income distribution or extensive social provisioning in favour of the poor. The paper seeks to understand the constraints low-income democracies face in improving the welfare of voters by looking at three dimensions of political competitiveness in public life: electoral competitiveness, parliamentary competitiveness and interest group pressure.