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Human dignity and welfare systems

Human dignity and welfare systems

Chak Kwan Chan
Graham Bowpitt
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  • Book Info
    Human dignity and welfare systems
    Book Description:

    Pro-'workfare' governments justify their policies by claiming 'workfare' helps enhance self-esteem and promote the dignity of unemployed recipients. On the other hand, welfare activists argue that 'workfare' suppresses the dignity of unemployed persons. This book examines the concept of human dignity in this context and attempts to clarify its meaning. For the first time, it formulates a framework for evaluating the dignity of welfare recipients; uses this framework to explore the dignity of unemployed persons in four different welfare systems: UK, Sweden, China and Hong Kong and compares the conditions of human dignity in each case and identifies factors which enhance or suppress it. Human dignity and welfare systems is important reading for students and academics in the fields of social policy, social work, philosophy and politics. It is also a useful reference text for politicians, welfare administrators and activists.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-142-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables and figures
    (pp. iv-v)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vi-vi)
    Chak Kwan Chan and Graham Bowpitt
  3. Part One: Background

    • ONE Human dignity and social policy
      (pp. 3-12)

      The importance of human dignity always emerges from the torture and abuse of human beings. In 2004, the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison was widely reported. Newspaper photographs show a hooded prisoner with wires fixed to his body, a dog attacking a prisoner and nude inmates piled in a human pyramid, forced to simulate sex with each other. In response to these abuses, General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director of Operations for the US military in Iraq, urged the US army to ‘treat people with dignity and respect’Guardian,2004a). The Church of England also...

    • TWO Rationality, sociability and human dignity
      (pp. 13-22)

      As illustrated in Chapter One, since the concept of human dignity is vague it is hard to judge whether some welfare practices enhance or suppress the dignity of welfare recipients. Yet some governments cite dignity as a moral justification for regulating the behaviour of unemployed persons. Thus it is essential to explore the concept of dignity in order to assess the impact of current welfare measures on recipients. The exploration of human dignity should start from human nature. As Muzaffar asks, ‘How can one talk of the rights of the human being without a more profound understanding of the human...

    • THREE Respect, social participaion and four welfare states
      (pp. 23-34)

      In Chapter Two it was argued that human dignity derives from the innate human capacity for autonomy and mutuality. This raises the question: ‘What should be done in order to promote autonomy and mutuality?’ As far as the rationality of humans is concerned, Kant’s answer – respect – is an appropriate response. As for the sociability of humans, social participation is the means to establish relationships with significant others and to be integrated into social and political life. This chapter first discusses the key factors by reference to which the extent of respect and social participation in a society can be effectively...

  4. Part Two: Case studies

    • FOUR Hong Kong and human dignity
      (pp. 37-64)

      With a population of 6.81 million, Hong Kong is one of the most developed societies as well as the world’s freest economy. As a former British colony and now as a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong has had a government that has consistently followed the principles of the free market. David Wilson (1987, p 13), a former colonial governor, claims that Hong Kong was ‘the prime example of a free-trade economy’; while Tung Chee Hwa, the first Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), confirmed that ‘we remain firmly committed to upholding our system...

    • FIVE China and human dignity
      (pp. 65-94)

      China has experienced dramatic social and economic changes since adopting an open-door policy in 1978. Before that, the Chinese government mainly followed the principles of socialism, according to which the needs of workers and their family members, such as medical care, housing, education and retirement, were met by state-owned enterprises (SOEs). This is because all means of production were in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); full employment had been achieved at the expense of surplus labour in state enterprises. Under the work unit welfare system, public welfare was restricted to the ‘three no’s’ – people with no income,...

    • SIX The United Kingdom and human dignity
      (pp. 95-124)

      The New Labour government’s (NLG) landslide victory in the 1997 general election opened a new chapter for the British welfare state. Unlike previous Labour governments, which had emphasised collective provision and wealth redistribution, the NLG attaches greater importance to the private market as an effective mechanism not only for wealth creation but also for welfare delivery. Also, the NLG stresses the distribution of opportunity through education and training rather than the redistribution of wealth through, for instance, raising benefit rates. Work, therefore, has been promoted as a means to tackle poverty and to improve the life quality of the poor....

    • SEVEN Sweden and human dignity
      (pp. 125-152)

      Sweden has always been regarded as ‘the archetype of a universal model’ (Palme, 2002) as well as ‘the most expensive welfare state’ (Rothstein, 1998, p 6). After comparing a wide range of welfare states, Doyal and Gough (1991, p 290) conclude that the Swedish welfare state ‘emerges as the global leader, the country most closely approximating optimum need-satisfaction at the present time’. Sweden was also ranked second on the United Nations’ Human Development Index (United Nations Development Programme, 2004). The Swedish government has consistently attributed this to class and gender equality and the dominant role of government in welfare provision....

  5. Part Three: Comparisons

    • EIGHT Comparing human dignity in four welfare systems
      (pp. 155-196)

      By using different perspectives for evaluating a welfare system, we can reach different conclusions. The selection of an assessment tool is very important because its results might shape the public’s attitudes towards the living quality of the poor and also affect a government’s policies on the levels of welfare benefits. Thus, welfare evaluation can be a verdict on the fate of poor people, suppressing or pursuing equality and social justice in a society. In Chapters four to seven, human dignity has been used to assess the treatment of unemployed persons in four welfare systems. This chapter compares the welfare measures...

    • NINE Human dignity and the classification of welfare states
      (pp. 197-210)

      Two issues have emerged from studying the dignity of the unemployed in China, Hong Kong, the UK and Sweden. The first is the application of human dignity to the classification of welfare systems. The second is the impact of welfare-to-work strategies on human dignity. This first issue addresses the debate about classification models and the importance of using human dignity to assess the achievements of a welfare state. The second examines whether welfare-to-work policies enhance the dignity of unemployed persons, as governments claim they do.

      It is argued in Chapters Two and Three that rationality and sociability are intrinsic human...