Category Archives: Family policy and welfare

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

stefan-kuhner-and-keerty-nakray

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.

Undermining needs-based social security

alexmarsh-300x168An extended version of this post was originally published on 3 November 2016 on the blog of the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. The original post is available at http://policystudies.blogs.ilrt.org/

Alex Marsh, Chair of the Policy & Politics Management Board and also Professor of Public Policy at the University of Bristol and a leading academic on housing, anticipates some consequences of Monday’s roll out of the Coalition’s policy to lower the cap on benefits. It doesn’t make optimistic reading…

Undermining needs-based social security
We are about to see one of the welfare policies of the late, only occasionally lamented Coalition government bear particularly ugly fruit. Next Monday the process of lowering the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) from £26,000 per year begins. Over the coming months the policy will be rolled out across the country, with the cap being reduced to £20,000 outside London and £23,000 in London. Continue reading Undermining needs-based social security

How do children’s environments contribute to their life satisfaction?

Amy Clair.jpgAmy Clair, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Oxford

Recent years have seen an increase in interest in how happy children are with their lives in many countries.

Comparisons of wealthy nations show that there is cause for concern, with many studies finding that the UK lags behind in terms of how satisfied children are with their lives, ranking bottom of a Unicef report in 2007 for example (although there was some evidence of improvement in 2013).  In order to improve this, we must improve our understanding what drives children’s satisfaction.

There has been a lot of work investigating how individual characteristics impact life satisfaction, for example we know that girls report lower satisfaction than boys. However, there has been relatively little work examining how children’s environments affect how satisfied they feel about their lives.  Two of the main environments in the majority of children’s lives are the home and the school.  These locations are where children spend the bulk of their time and they provide the location for many of their important relationships, with parents, teachers, and friends for example.

Continue reading How do children’s environments contribute to their life satisfaction?

Welfare reforms are based on the wrong assumptions about benefit recipients’ motivations and actions

profile photoSocial security systems are being transformed according to untested assumptions about how benefit recipients act. Sharon Wright provides evidence to challenge several core myths on which British welfare reforms have been based. There is a wide gap between the dominant way in which welfare subjects are represented in political and media debate and the lived experiences of those receiving benefits and using support services.

Over the last 15 years, British welfare reforms have focussed on individualising responsibility and contracting-out services. These strategies share a behaviour change logic that assumes the source of the problem is to be found in the flawed motivations and actions of benefit recipients and their job coaches. Consecutive UK governments have been strongly committed to the idea of ‘getting people off benefits and into work’, despite long periods of minimal unemployment rates and exceptionally high employment rates. Continue reading Welfare reforms are based on the wrong assumptions about benefit recipients’ motivations and actions

The Welfare state: A Case of Plus cá change?

Anthony McCashin
Anthony McCashin

by Anthony McCashin, Trinity College Dublin

Paul Pierson shaped the terms on which we considered the sources and scale of welfare state change. Would a critical review of Pierson’s claims still endorse them? Our Policy & Politics article entitled How much change? Pierson and the welfare state revisited attempts to answer this question.

First, welfare state resilience: while appropriate, perhaps, to Pierson’s analysis of ‘early’ retrenchers like Reagan in the US, or Swedish Social Democrats in the 1990s, this term no longer reflects the variety and depth of change – especially in social security. Second, globalisation: here Pierson is on more certain ground. On the one hand, there are strong nationally based drivers of change- such as ageing and health care costs. On the other, individual welfare states have quite distinct economies (and institutions) and these filter the influence of globalisation. Welfare states remain specific and diverse and are not flattened into conformity by globalisation. Continue reading The Welfare state: A Case of Plus cá change?

Setting the stage for another reform? Changing narratives around disability benefit recipients in the UK

Zach Morris
Zach Morris

by Zach Morris, School of Social Welfare, University of Berkeley, USA

The Department of Work and Pensions recently released the statistics for those who died after being found “fit for work,” and thus ineligible for disability benefits in the U.K. The Guardian reports that nearly 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work. Caution is due, however, before interpreting the outcome of the assessment process as the cause of these deaths. Yet, the emergence of these figures and their wide reporting in the press shed light on how the public is coming to perceive the country’s recent experiment with disability benefit cuts. The growing attention to this issue could lead to increasing support for disability benefit recipients, which, as reported in my P&P article on the topic and shown below, has been in decline for many years. If so, now may prove an opportune time for political entrepreneurs Continue reading Setting the stage for another reform? Changing narratives around disability benefit recipients in the UK

The Conservative government’s promotion of financialisation is transforming citizenship in the UK

Craig Berry
Craig Berry

Craig Berry is Deputy Director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. His latest article ‘Citizenship in a financialised society: financial inclusion and the state before and after the crash’ is available on fast track.

While the New Labour-ish language of ‘financial inclusion’ and ‘asset-based welfare’ has been quietly eschewed, since 2010 the Conservative Party has continued its predecessor’s agenda around promoting more extensive and intensive participation in the financial system, through asset ownership, in order to enable individuals to play an enhanced role in ensuring their own long term financial security.

This agenda is, understandably, usually assessed in terms of the impact on financial well-being. Yet its implications for the meaning and practice of citizenship may be just as significant Continue reading The Conservative government’s promotion of financialisation is transforming citizenship in the UK