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Political Research Exchange

Transformations and Challenges in the Emerging Welfare States of the 21st Century

Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Gibrán Cruz-Martínez
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid – Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos del CSIC
Workshop Co-Director
Pamela Bernales-Baksai
University of Bath

Welfare states (WS) have traditionally received significant attention in the social science literature because of its fundamental role in supporting economic activity, promoting equality and ensuring the common wellbeing in modern societies. Nowadays, the academic literature and (inter/supra) national stakeholders have emphasised the need to create, consolidate and expand social protection as a fundamental tool for development (Midgley, 2004). The United Nations´ Sustainable Development Goals and the International Labour Organisation´ social protection floor support the relevance of the welfare state for advancing fairer and more inclusive societies.

While there is a consensus on the need to create welfare systems, there are challenging disagreements concerning how much welfare should be guaranteed and by whom? This becomes especially challenging during times of economic crises – inherent to the contemporary globalised economic system – and dramatic demographic transformations (e.g., ageing and increasing cross-national mobility).

Social insurance and social assistance programmes intend to reduce poverty and equalise (at least to some extent) income distribution. The expansion of social insurance in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) remains a challenge due to low rates of participation in the formal economy, lack of institutionalisation of WS, and regressive taxation, among others (Bastagli, 2013; Cruz-Martínez 2018).

In the latest World Social Protection Report, the ILO confirmed that 55 per cent of the world population (i.e. around 4 billion human beings) lack social protection coverage, and only 29 per cent are covered by a comprehensive social security system (i.e. with benefits in child, family and old-age pensions). In the Americas, about 16 per cent of the population remain uncovered, while in Asia and the Pacific this number increases to 62 per cent, and in Africa, it reaches 82 per cent (ILO, 2017). Cross-regional social expenditure data analyses unveil similar trends. While advanced economies invest over 15 per cent of their GDPs on cash transfers, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa spend just over 5 per cent, and Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific less than 5 per cent (Bastagli, Coady, & Gupta, 2012). Cross-regional differences are smaller, but still significant, in health and education expenditures (Bastagli et al., 2012).

Even though the world is reducing the gaps in coverage and quality, social protection in LMICs still face challenges to reach the entire population. Three central areas must be examined in the context of these challenges: (i) the territorial governance of welfare, (ii) the cross-sectoral action of social policy and (iii) the intra-national variation of welfare and the role of alternative actors in welfare provision. Historical processes, the economic crises in the 21st century, globalisation, economic liberalisation and democracy – among others – have transformed the role of actors and institutions in charge of providing social policies in the Emerging Welfare States (EWS).

Regarding the first analytical axis, the literature demonstrates how European WS have been restructuring the territorial governance of their social protection systems during the last three decades, aiming at greater efficiency and quality of social welfare (Kazepov, 2010). On the one hand, it has involved decentralising social policy towards the meso levels of government and, on the other, an increase in the participation of private and semi-public providers in delivering essential services such as health care and education (Sellers & Lidström, 2007). However, most studies relating territorial governance and welfare state focus on the experience of the developed world (see for example Ferrera, 2005 and Del Pino et al., in-press) rather than on the Global South and the particular political-economy and institutional conditions that operate as explanatory factors. The centralisation of welfare in the national government or its decentralisation to the meso and local levels and the impact of contemporary transformations of social policies in the EWS have mostly been ignored (Hooghe et al., 2016; Giraudy, 2015). The role of sub/supra national stakeholders must be taken into consideration to reform the welfare systems in search of increasing coverage and quality of welfare programmes and services.

The second analytical axis refers to the cross-sectoral action of social policy. In a comprehensive and social rights-based definition, social protection aims at preventing and mitigate social risks (Rodríguez, 2011) of all individuals and families throughout the life-course (Cecchini & Martínez, 2011). It implies, therefore, that promoting social protection cannot be limited to specific policy sectors without considering how they interact with each other generating different impacts on people´s lives. Nowadays, most countries and international organisms recognise the relevance of building solid cross-sectoral relationships in order to advance the desired policy outcomes. One of the most significant examples of this approach is the 2013 Helsinki Statement on Health in All Policies (HiAP). This statement highlights the need for taking into account the health impacts of other policies and of seeking synergies between sectors in order to improve populations health and health equity (WHO, 2013). Other areas of social policy such as child protection have had a long tradition integrating actions from different sectors (e.g. education and health care), and in the last decades, many of those programmes also included some type of cash transfers (World Bank, 2014).

The acknowledgement of the importance of considering how social policies as a whole (including the latticework of relationships between them) generate social protection outcomes supposes that it is paramount to build shared agendas to optimising resources and achieving better outcomes. However, there is limited knowledge, especially outside the developed world, about what cross-sectoral action exactly means, how to build it, and its real value in the area of social policy (Cunill Grau, 2014).

Esping-Andersen’s welfare regime theory has been highly praised and criticised in the academia. Regarding the third analytical axis, scholars working on high-income countries have confirmed the validity of the three welfare regime models (Powell & Barrientos, 2004), and complemented the tripartite classification to include peripheral areas in Europe as well as in Asia, Africa and Latin America (Aspalter, 2017). Scholars have also incorporated regions in the Global South as a welfare regime model (Barrientos, 2004). However, researchers have concentrated their efforts in examining the national picture of welfare regimes. By focusing on the national welfare regimes, the literature fails to capture intra-national variations of welfare regimes (i.e., fails to show territorial dynamics of social policy). Welfare regimes in countries with robust state WS, report significant variations across social policy sectors. Gough (2013) made this evident when highlighting that the so-called “liberal Britain still retains a universal National Health Service”. Research also shows a systematic subnational variation with distinct worlds of welfare across Chinese provinces (Ratigan, 2017). Therefore, a better understanding of intra-national variations of welfare and the role of alternative actors such as the grassroots and religious organisations would provide policymakers and politicians with a picture closer to reality regarding the production of welfare.

This workshop aims at filling the gap of knowledge regarding the recent evolution and challenges in social policies in the EWS. The primary purpose is to showcase a comprehensive analysis that enables cross-country and cross-regional comparisons around three principal axes: i)Territorial governance; ii)Cross-sectoral action, and iii)intra-national variation of welfare and the role of alternative actors.

Papers in this section will examine transformations undertaken by EWS throughout the 21st century regarding any of the three analytical axes previously indicated. Analyses can focus either cross-sectoral programmes or one of the central social policy sectors: education, health care, social insurance, labour policies, and social assistance. We are interested in contributions addressing (but not limited to) one of the following research questions:

• How have countries addressed cross-sectoral actions for social protection? How did those countries build cross-sectoral action? What does the cross-national and/or cross-regional analyses unveil about the processes to build cross-sectoral action for social protection and the policy outputs?
• How have the welfare state´s territorial governance changed in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and/or the Middle East in the 21st century?
• How do alternative (i.e. grassroots organisations, NGOs, religious organisations) and traditional (i.e. formal labour market, state, family) actors interplay to provide welfare and cope with new and old social risks?
• What are the conditions and mechanisms explaining the transformation of the welfare-mix and territorial governance of the EWS in Latin American, African, Asian, and/or Middle-Eastern countries (2000-15)?
• How do recent transformations regarding territorial governance, cross-sectoral action, intra-national welfare, and/or alternative actors impact in the coverage, generosity, quality, and/or equity of social policies/welfare programmes?

In order to explore these issues in a comparative and a comprehensive perspective, we especially welcome papers presenting cross-country or cross-regional analyses, although country case studies making relevant contributions are also accepted.

How it relates to existing research/publications in the area

The section will bring together scholars working with the territorial governance of the welfare state, welfare regimes and the welfare-mix of EWS. Several publications have addressed these topics focusing on specific geographical regions – mainly but not limited to high-income countries in Europe and North America (Kazepov, 2010; McEwen & Moreno, 2005; Martínez-Franzoni & Sánchez-Ancochea, 2018; Niedzwiecki, 2018). To our knowledge, only a few publications address these issues in a comparative perspective with several regions of the world (Barba Solano, Ordoñez Barba, & Valencia Lomelí, 2009; Gough & Wood, 2004; Haggard & Kaufman, 2009; Martínez-Franzoni & Sánchez-Ancochea, 2016). However, most of them are more than a decade old and rely more on the welfare-mix and welfare regimes theories than on the territorial governance of the WS.

Even though recent research has examined welfare regimes and WS transformations in Latin America (Bernales‐Baksai & Solar‐Hormazábal, 2018; Huber & Niedzwiecki, 2015; Migdalia, Ordoñez, & Valencia, 2018), Africa (Bermeo, 2016; Dixon, 2016; Lavers, 2016), the Middle-East (Hertog, 2017; Jawad, 2013) and Asia (Aspalter, 2006), and inclusive across regions (Tillin & Duckett, 2017), researchers of the WS must update the literature with recent economic, political, and social events.

The recent publication titled ‘The Routledge International Handbook to Welfare State Systems’ does a terrific job incorporating welfare systems from all over the world (Aspalter, 2017), but it shows two limitations that further joint publications deriving from this workshop will aim to overcome: (1) This is a compilation of case studies, but a comparative analysis across regions and welfare areas is missing; (2) Each case study focuses on a specific welfare sector difficulting, therefore, comparative analyses both within a region and across regions.

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