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Poverty, Social Assistance, and the Empl

Poverty, Social Assistance, and the Empl: Restructuring Welfare States

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Poverty, Social Assistance, and the Empl
    Book Description:

    Why do some welfare states provide income support for mothers to care for their school-aged children at home while others expect them to find employment when their youngest child is six months old? This study, a fundamental contribution to social policy and social welfare theory, compares recent efforts to restructure social programs for low-income mothers in four countries: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. While these countries are sometimes classified as liberal welfare states, this book demonstrates that they vary considerably in terms of benefit development, expectations concerning maternal employment, and restructuring processes.

    The authors examine changes to income security programs, discuss the social, political and economic conditions affecting these programs, and analyse the discourse promoting reform. Using a feminist and political economy perspective, they conclude that recent, often expensive, efforts to make beneficiaries more employable have not always enabled them to escape welfare or poverty.

    While full-time employment opportunities are becoming scarcer, governments are requiring beneficiaries to enter the workforce, often with little social support or improvement in income. Regardless of the impact of employability initiatives on poverty levels, the study concludes that these policies are important ideological instruments in tempering demands on contemporary welfare systems. The result is a more residual welfare state, in which social provision is increasingly presented as a meagre last resort.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7866-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledments
    (pp. ix-2)
    Maureen Baker and David Tippin
  5. 1 Setting the Stage
    (pp. 3-36)

    Depending on where she lives in the 1990s, a low-income mother with dependent children faces different work expectations and approaches to government benefits. The Canadian province of Alberta considers a mother to be ‘employable’ when her youngest child is six months old. In Australia, the comparable age is sixteen years. Yet both Canada and Australia have ostensibly ‘restructured’ their social programs in the past few years along neo-liberal lines, to create less state involvement in the labour force and family life, lower taxes and government expenditures, and less generous social programs. This book discusses why cross-national differences and similarities exist...

  6. 2 Gendering the Analysis of Restructuring
    (pp. 37-69)

    The key theoretical and empirical goal of this book is to find ways to incorporate gender and caring – two relatively invisible features of much of welfare-state theory – into more mainstream analyses that have focused on the state and labour market. We argue that political alliances, processes, and conflicts have been and remain crucial in determining the shape of social-welfare programs. In addition, welfare states have also ensured that capital accumulation can proceed and that citizens view social and economic institutions and processes as legitimate. Although the welfare state is not a neutral arbiter between competing interest groups, neither is it...

  7. 3 Government Debt and Policy Choices: Restructuring in Canada
    (pp. 70-116)

    In this chapter, we discuss attempts, mostly successful, to restructure the Canadian welfare state by both Conservative and Liberal governments¹ since 1984. These reforms were largely justified by neo-liberal arguments that Canada had no choice but to reduce government expenditures because the public debt was so high that interest payments were crippling government efforts to finance present and future programs (Courchene and Stewart 1992). The restructures of the Canadian welfare state suggested that high public debt was caused primarily by the expansion of social programs throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Yet many other factors contributed to government debt and deficit...

  8. 4 From Public to Private Dependency? Reforming Policies in Australis
    (pp. 117-152)

    Theorists such as Esping-Andersen (1990) have classified both Canada and Australia as similar welfare-state regimes, yet substantial differences are apparent in the structure of their social programs. Australia has never created national social-insurance programs with contributory benefits, such as Canada’s unemployment insurance and national pension plan, preferring to fund programs out of general taxation revenues, based on need rather than work history. Another difference is that social security (including what Canadians call ‘welfare’) is federal jurisdiction in Australia. In addition, the Australian government pays a special benefit for low-income parents (mothers) to care for both their pre-school and school-aged children...

  9. 5 The ‘Great Experiment’: Restructuring New Zealand’s Social Programs
    (pp. 153-191)

    Historically, Labour governments in both Australia and New Zealand relied on the wage-earner’s welfare state for social well-being, although some national variations were always apparent. In the 1980s, restructuring was initiated and led in both countries by Labour governments, and it was continued in the 1990s by more overtly conservative regimes. Yet, as we will see in this chapter, the process and outcomes of New Zealand’s reforms differentiate it from similar attempts at reform in Australia and Canada. New Zealand’s unique brand of economic rationalism has exposed more of its social structures to the governance and vagaries of deregulation, which...

  10. 6 The United Kingdom: Restrucing the ‘Nanny State’
    (pp. 192-228)

    Among the more vivid phrases introduced by Margaret Thatcher into the British political lexicon of the 1980s was the ‘nanny state culture of dependency’ (Maclean 1997b). Conservative government rule from 1979 to 1997, under Thatcher and later under John Major, was filled with political rhetoric about the need to reduce social-welfare expenditures, the necessity of self-discipline and individual responsibility, the moral deficiencies of the poor, and the benefits of privatization. Low-income mothers, especially lone mothers dependent on social provision, quickly emerged as both a policy and a moral-reform target. Yet the Thatcher revolution remained curiously unsuccessful in its attempts to...

  11. 7 Welfare-State Restructuring: The Poverty of Employability
    (pp. 229-266)

    For nearly two decades, governments in many OECD countries have restructured elements of their welfare states in response to rising program costs, increased numbers of claimants, structural changes in labour markets and families, and political-ideological agendas asserting the primacy of markets over the state. We have shown throughout this book that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are all shifting towards a more residual and moralistic state that focuses on need, individual responsibility, and work incentives.

    Social-policy discourse in these countries used to place greater emphasis on social citizenship and universality, especially in the 1970s. Now, the targeting...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 267-272)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-304)
  14. Index
    (pp. 305-316)