India’s Emerging Social Policy Paradigm: Productive, Protective or What? 

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Stephan Kühner and Keerty Nakray

The last two decades have been marked by a renewed focus on pro-poor social policies in India under the two Centre/Left Congress/United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments (2004-2009, 2009-2014). These social policies included a plethora of education programs (such as Madhyamik Shiksha Yojana (National Middle School/ Secondary School Scheme), health insurance programs (such as Rashtriya’s Swasthya Bima Yojana, (RSBY) along with several conditional cash transfer schemes such as Janani Suraksha Yojana (Protection of Motherhood Scheme, JSY); and rural poverty alleviation programs (such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) etc.

In our recent article published in the Journal of Asian Public Policy, we analyse if these programs really mark a genuine shift towards pro-poor universal social policies and if the actions of the UPA actually delivered on its well-promoted rhetoric of pushing India towards a high skills based knowledge economy.  Our analysis also re-examined the existing research on extending welfare regime theories to developing counties. For example, Wood and Gough (2006) classified India as an informal-insecure regime as large numbers of citizens largely depend on precarious employment and informal family and kinship networks for welfare. Similarly, Kühner (2015) pointed out that much of the social expenditure is disproportionately directed towards to social protection programs such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Our analysis indicates that the majority of these social programmes do not signify a genuine move towards greater inclusivity or categorical entitlements. Benefit levels remain generally low and eligibility criteria too rigid to facilitate an extension of social protection coverage. India’s social policies essentially remain residual, even minimalist, in character. Recent social policy initiatives largely appear in fragments with few connections with each other or any clearly defined strategy linking them to the economic goals of the country.

Our research makes a contribution to welfare state modeling which in recent decades has gone beyond focusing solely on advanced capitalist countries in the rich European and OECD countries. The emergence of East Asian welfare states and more recent developments in middle income countries such as Brazil and China has led to a diversification of the literature. India has not been dealt systematically in this research.  We have attempted to extend and diversify welfare regime theory based on an interdisciplinary review of India’s emerging social policies during the two recent Centre/Left Congress/United Progressive Alliance governments (2004-2009, 2009-2014).

We hope that the announcement of many new social protection schemes by the ambitious Modi government elected in 2014 may force us to change our assessment of the emerging social policy landscape in India. For instance, the World Bank’s Global Findex indicates a considerable improvement in access to formal bank accounts (from 35 per cent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2014) as a consequence of the Jan Dhan Yojana (Prime Minister’s People Money Scheme) program, which was launched in 2014.

If equally successful, the Modi government’s ambitious ‘Skill India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives, which aim to train 500 million Indians and create 100 million new manufacturing jobs by 2022 may well force us to reconsider the Indian political economy altogether. It remains to be seen whether further extensions of the emerging Indian middle class – currently standing somewhere between 100-300 million depending on the exact measure used – together with an ever-increasing presence of civil society organizations will trigger not only more domestic demand for manufacturing products and more formal employment, but will also create a new politics of social policy that will manage to move India beyond its current dependency mode.

Dr. Stefan Kühner, is an Assistant Professor at Ling nan University, Hong Kong. Email: stefankuehner@ln.edu.hk  Twitter: @stefankuehner

Dr. Keerty Nakray, is an Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Centre for Women, Law and Social Change, at O.P. Jindal Global University, India. Email: knakray@jgu.edu.in; Twitter @socialpolicyind

If you enjoyed this blog post you may also like to read Gender budgeting and public policy: the challenges to operationalising gender justice in India by Keerty Nakray.

“I Will Fight for What I Deserve”: Political Struggles for Welfare Rights

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Daniel Edmiston, University of Oxford and Louise Humpage, University of Auckland

An extended version of this post was originally published  on 1 February 2017 in the Policy Briefing section of Discover Society which is provided in collaboration with the journal Policy & Politics. The original post is available at  http://discoversociety.org/category/policy-briefing/.

Across advanced capitalist economies, welfare withdrawal and reform are undermining the rights, identity and belonging of low-income social citizens. Amidst this upheaval, welfare claimants are engaged in diverse political struggles for and against social citizenship. What risks and opportunities does this present for the future direction of welfare politics? To answer this question, our recent Policy & Politics article explores how welfare claimants negotiate the institutions and ideals driving successive rounds of welfare reform over time.

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Source: Michael Candelori, https://www.flickr.com/photos/bymikey/18993988515/ (CC BY SA 2.0)

The uneven effects of welfare austerity contradict the notion that ‘we are all in this together’. The promise of shared sacrifice and frugality has failed to materialize across the developed world with the rich and the poor pulling further apart from one another since the global financial crisis. Increasingly restrictive welfare provision has been driven by penalizing and disciplinary reforms targeted at those most reliant on low-income social security and assistance. Continue reading “I Will Fight for What I Deserve”: Political Struggles for Welfare Rights

Understanding Trump: Modes of Deliberate Disproportionate Policy Response

moshe-maorMoshe Maor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Since the U.S. response to 9/11 and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, there has been increasing interest in the concept of disproportionate policy response and its two component concepts ─ policy over- and underreaction. This policy response is understood to be a lack of ‘fit’ or balance between the costs of a public policy and the benefits that are derived from this policy, and between policy ends and means. So far, however, little scholarly attention has been devoted to this type of policy response and to its two anchor concepts. This is because of the impression that disproportionate policies are not carefully thought out; are not carefully implemented; are based on strategic misperceptions, and are bound to fail. The few studies that address this topic have concluded that this policy response is unintentional, occurring when policymakers engage in mistakes of omission or commission in the diagnosis and the prescription stages of decision-making. Continue reading Understanding Trump: Modes of Deliberate Disproportionate Policy Response

Borderlands of the private home: Uncertain social times and our growing fortress mentality

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By Rowland Atkinson

Can we speculate that there is a relationship between the massive changes in policy and political life since the financial crisis of more or less ten years ago and the look and feel of the streets and homes in our towns and cities? It was not long after the crisis began that I made a journey by car through the semi-rural areas bordering Manchester and Chester and was surprised at the number of homes with new, large and electronic gates. Why would we find these kinds of features in leafy areas with presumably low crime rates? Why indeed would we expect to find now well over a thousand gated communities in a country like the UK that has traditionally not only enjoyed a relatively low crime rate but also a history of more or less open streetscapes and a celebration of public footpaths and byways? We know that the reasons for these changes are complex and lie in a mix of factors that include a search for badges of social standing as well as a fear of crime. Yet the reality in many streets today is of a proliferation not of large gated communities but the rise of what Sarah Blandy and I recently called domestic fortresses. In many neighbourhoods it is possible to see shuttered and gated large homes side-by-side with those with little or no such visible protection. What explains these variations and what does it mean, if anything at all, for questions of policy today? Continue reading Borderlands of the private home: Uncertain social times and our growing fortress mentality

Policy & Politics Co-editor Felicity Matthews reflects on the first months of Theresa May’s new Conservative government.

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By Felicity Matthews

At 07:20 on 24 June 2016, the result of the ‘once-in-a-generation’ referendum was announced.  Little over an hour later the Prime Minister made his own announcement on the steps of Downing Street, stating that it ‘would not be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination’.  Since then, one word has been on the lips of Westminster watchers.  Bre… OK, not that one.  Another.  One beginning with ‘m’: MANDATE.  Who has a mandate?  To do what?  By when?  How? Continue reading Policy & Politics Co-editor Felicity Matthews reflects on the first months of Theresa May’s new Conservative government.

Inspired by the issue: Understanding the implementation of targets in government: making classics count

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By Thomas Schillemans

 

 

Browsing through the latest October 2016 issue of Policy & Politics, I was ‘inspired’ to review the article on understanding the implementation of targets in government. The analysis of public administration and public policy is often haunted by the tyranny of the contemporary. New theoretical lenses, innovative conceptual ideas, unfolding policy problems and crises, if not the anticipation of future problems, they always manage to attract a whole lot of attention. There is more traction to be gained from introducing a new theoretical approach than from refining and improving existing approaches. Researchers and students sometimes seem more motivated to understand tomorrow’s problems than to deal with the current. The predictable effect is that the theoretical landscape of public policy and administration is filled with abandoned half-baked start-ups: new and intriguing approaches that have been abandoned for newer and more intriguing approaches long before their potential could be realized and they had the chance to mature and develop to their full potential.

I may be exaggerating a little…

Nevertheless, it is always inspiring and laudable to see scholars build on existing frameworks in order to expand their scope and use for understanding public policy, both theoretically as well as practically. In Christina Boswell and Eugenia Rodrigues’ analysis of the implementation of targets in different policy fields by the British government, Kingdon’s now classical multiple streams approach is used to assess whether and how targets in different fields are implemented and how this may change over time. In particular, they show how different organizational problem constructions on the one hand and differences in central political commitment to policies on the other, create different types of policy implementation, which may change over time. This has allowed them to add a temporal and organizational dimension to Kingdon’s framework, making it less static and more useful for the analysis of changes in policy implementation.

Boswell and Rodrigues come to a typology of implementation styles, based on Kingdon’s distinction between the political and problems streams. They distinguish between consensual, coercive, bottom-up and, simply, non-implementation. For instance they describe how clear targets for defense procurement were virtual dead letters, simply because there was insufficient support in the political stream. The law in the books was very clear: there were rather specific targets and procedures to be met in order to prevent slippage. The law in action, however, featured many theoretically important actors in the policy field taking a soft stance on the implementation of these targets. The National Audit Office and the Treasury did “not feel sufficiently concerned or capable of intervening to ensure that targets were met”. The Ministry and other important policy actors were also not too enthused to enforce this issue which was only moderately important politically . As a result, the “targets were poorly implemented”. In some other areas, however, they find different – and changing – patterns of implementation.

The analysis is inspiring, precisely because it touches on current policy issues and allows us to understand them. Just last week I was in a discussion on the merits of the new governance regime for Dutch higher education which, in part, uses targets and rewards as a mechanism to improve the quality of universities. We had a long discussion focusing on the system itself and what its effects were likely to be. My best guess was to say I didn’t know, simply because the targets as such would not necessarily produce any kind of result. It all depended on circumstances. But what circumstances? After reading Boswell and Rodrigues’ paper I could come up with a much better answer: if you want to know whether and how targets are implemented, it is wise to focus on the political commitment to those targets on various levels on the one hand, and to the organization’s ability to link those targets to experienced problems on the other. This approach allows us to understand why some targets may be mercilessly pursued while others remain dead letters.

If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read Policies, politics and organisational problems: multiple streams and the implementation of targets in UK government by Christina Boswell and Eugenia Rodrigues.

What Ever Happened to Home Ownership and Asset-based Welfare?  

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Richard Ronald (University of Amsterdam), Christian Lennartz (University of Amsterdam, and Justin Kadi (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)

An extended version of this post was originally published  on 3 January 2017 in the Policy Briefing section of Discover Society which is provided in collaboration with the journal Policy & Politics. The original post is available at  http://discoversociety.org/category/policy-briefing/.

Owning your own home has long been recognized as a form of asset-based welfare in policy terms. Historic growth in home ownership and house prices has advanced the assumption that housing equity fulfils a welfare function by acting as a store of wealth or even a reserve of cash. However, as Richard Ronald argues, a clear consequence of this policy has been to widen the gap between rich and poor families, as well as between young and old, with access to housing and housing wealth becoming a critical dimension of social inequality, especially since the last financial crisis.  Continue reading What Ever Happened to Home Ownership and Asset-based Welfare?