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Current Trends in Social Welfare, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 596

Essay

Since the end of the Second World War, most democratic states have instituted a welfare state of some type. The main aim of a welfare state is to provide for the security and well being of the citizens of a country, and in the process ensure that no one falls below a certain level of poverty. Welfare is a controversial and contested political area, and consequently the subject of continuous debate and change. This essay will briefly examine current trends in welfare reform as well as the most effective welfare systems.

Welfare states, particularly in Western European societies, have been significantly successful in protecting their societies from the social ravages of the late 19th and early 20th centuries such as hunger, poverty, want, ignorance, disease, homelessness etc. Despite these successes, the underlying tenets of the welfare state such as collectivization of risk, universalism and social citizenship has been anathema to those who favour market based principles. In recent decades attempts have been made to reform welfare provision. These have revolved around a basic drive to roll back the state, get people off benefits and back to work. So for example the unemployed have been re-classified as ‘jobseekers,’ as a way of classifying unemployment as a temporary affair. Efforts have been made to inject market principles into the system by re-classifying the old welfare bureaucracy as welfare managers, and welfare recipients as customers. In this new configuration, welfare managers are now seen as enablers, who provide possibilities for customers to come off benefits and get back into some form of part or full time employment. Fergusson et al believe this new consumerism “empowers managers and consumers by releasing them from the old structures of standard ‘one size fits all’ state welfare.[1]

Although it has been suffering from recent economic downturns, one of the most successful welfare states has traditionally been Sweden’s. The Swedish welfare system is exceptionally generous. As a consequence the country has a remarkably strong civic culture, with a greater proportion of its citizens performing voluntary work than other more right wing states such as the UK and the USA.[2] Its people tend to register high on the happiness and contentment index, and inequality rates are relatively low. The crime trend also tends to be lower than many of its more market oriented neighbours such as England.[3]

The trend today in Western societies definitely favours rolling back the state, especially at a time of stringent economic conditions. However the positive experience of the Swedish and other Scandinavian welfare states in providing a decent basic standard of living for all their citizens will ensure the debate of welfare provision continues well into the future.

Bibliography

Downes, D. (1998) Crime and Inequality: Current Issues in Research and Public Debate, British Society of Criminology, [online] available at http://www.britsoccrim.org/volume1/014.pdf accessed on 30 November 2010

Fergusson, R. Hughes, G. And Neal, S. (2004) Welfare: From Security to Responsibility?  In Hughes, G. And Fergusson, R. Ordering Lives: Family, Work and Welfare, Milton Keynes, the Open University

Fouche, G. Is Small Government Best for Society, The Guardian, 3 February 2010, [online] available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/03/sweden-alternative-government-view accessed on 30 November 2010

[1] Fergusson, R. Hughes, G. and Neal, S. (2004) Welfare: From Security to Responsibility?  In Hughes, G. and Fergusson, R. Ordering Lives: Family, Work and Welfare, Milton Keynes, the Open University, p. 150

[2] Fouche, G. Is Small Government Best for Society, The Guardian, 3 February 2010, [online] available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/03/sweden-alternative-government-view accessed on 30 November 2010

[3] Downes, D. (1998) Crime and Inequality: Current Issues in Research and Public Debate, British Society of Criminology, [online] available at http://www.britsoccrim.org/volume1/014.pdf accessed on 30 November 2010

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