Social Security and Welfare: Concepts and Comparisons (Introducing Social Policy)

Walker, Robert
Open University Press, Buckingham
0335209343 (pb)

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Cover of book What is the difference between social security, social assistance and social protection? How social security relates with welfare? What is the meaning of concepts 'system' and 'scheme' in social security? What are the objectives of insurance, contributory benefits, non-contributory benefits and means-tested benefits as the tools of social security? Answers to these and many more questions could be found in Robert Walker's introductory textbook Social Security and Welfare.

The main idea of the book is that social facts change rapidly these days and, therefore, are limited by time and place. In such conditions only the basic concepts and theories help to comprehend phenomena of social reality. This book aims to offer readers a set of conceptual tools that will enable them to define and assemble facts for the better understanding of the design, implementation and effectiveness of a subset of social policies: those that relate to social security and welfare.

The phrase Social Security and Welfare has different meanings in different countries and different contexts. Both 'social security' and 'welfare' are organised differently in different places. For example, in the USA, the concept 'welfare' has been used to describe mean-tested provision; in modern European culture, the term 'welfare' is used to refer to the socially integrative welfare state. Whilst elsewhere in the world, welfare is synonymous with well-being or 'welfare state' that includes systems coordinated by government and intended to enhance individual and collective well-being. Moreover, the terms are treated differently in different social sciences. For example, in the discipline of economics, 'welfare' conveys individual welfare in terms of individuals' preference, so social welfare is then taken to be the sum of individual welfare.

Analysis of the concepts illustrated on six case study countries: the USA, the UK, Sweden, Germany, Australia and South Korea. Chosen countries represent variety of social security and welfare models. In USA and in most countries of continental Europe, social security describes cash benefits that are sponsored by government and funded primarily from contributions of workers and their employers with payments being made to needy people on their contribution records. In Britain, the social security system reflects the highly centralized, unitary nature of the state; the mix of contributory, non-contributory and social assistance benefits is largely delivered through the local offices of a single, national government department. In Sweden, welfare based on high employment-high benefits model; funding and delivery of social assistance is national responsibility. In Germany, welfare is based on social insurance principles; compulsory insurance for workers cover health, accident and pensions; it is provided by social partners, government, employers and trade unions. Additional welfare regimes exist in Australia, Korea, and other countries. In Australia, social security system relies almost exclusively on social assistance and applying means testing. South Korea, one of the South East Asia countries, tends to combine elements of liberal and conservative regimes.

Policies and policy systems are comprehensible when described in relation to concepts such aims and objectives, cost and cost effectiveness, efficiency and opportunity costs. Social Security and Welfare covers different aspects of the social security systems including: objectives, functions and constrains; mechanisms of financing, allocation and administration; income replacement, compensation and redistribution; and economic and administrative efficiency. Separate chapters analyse individualisation, globalisation and internationalism as the factors that influence social security systems, welfare and contemporary social change. Changes are really visible: benefits are often no longer paid in cash. Instead, they are frequently delivered directly into recipients' bank accounts, are paid in the form of vouchers, in kind, in the form of social services. So proposed discussion of concepts' meanings focused on cash benefits is very important.

Social Security and Welfare integrates concepts drawn from economics, social policy, sociology and social psychology. It focuses on the exposition of concepts rather than the generation of new knowledge. Readers are proposed to extent their knowledge by reference to the articles and books included in further reading section at the end of every chapter. In additional, the book has a perfect general glossary of concepts and terms of social security and welfare.

According to the author, the book is a modest contribution to the systematic approach to social policy and to the analysis of social security. But the presentation of the social security and welfare concepts is coherent, consequent and comprehensive, therefore Social Security and Welfare is useful for teaching. And it could also be important in the work of local institutions, in both a political and social context.

Vida Cesnuityte
Mykolas Romeris University