Category Archives: Poverty and Inequality

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

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

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?  

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

A Fair Economy is About More than Just Cash

Nat O'ConnorNat O’Connor, IRiSS, Ulster University

We all know that living on a low income is a daily challenge.

It’s not just about carefully planning the week’s spending—and deciding what things to do without—but it is a balancing act to deal with unexpected expenses: a medical emergency, a debt to be repaid or an extra cost for a child’s school trip.

And there is no point at which someone waves a magic wand and says here’s money that will clear your debts and allow you to patch up the fabric of your life. Most people won’t inherit money or be given a lump sum when they reach retirement age. Continue reading A Fair Economy is About More than Just Cash

Viewpoint from Danny Dorling on Inequality and the 1%

Danny Dorling
Danny Dorling

Over the festive period, spare a thought for the 1% lowest earners in the UK. Read on if you care…

The Conservatives won a narrow majority in May 2015. The result shocked a London based commentariat. This was hardly surprising as the Capital swung to Labour and London remains where life’s winners congregate, a place from where losers must be expelled. It was life’s losers who did not turn out to vote for the main alternative on offer, a watered-down version of Conservative austerity being sold to them by Ed Miliband. We were then told that the Labour Party did not appeal enough to those who were aspirational and wanted more, including people who wanted more largely irrespective of who had to have less. But perhaps fear and fantasy greatly appealed too, an eighth of the English electorate voted for the UK Independence party (UKIP).

In Scotland all but three of the constituencies fell to the Scottish National Party (SNP) which now represented as wide a cross-section of society as it is possible to imagine. The former Royal Bank of Scotland oil economist, Alex Salmond became Continue reading Viewpoint from Danny Dorling on Inequality and the 1%