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Chapter 13

SOC102 Questioning Sociology Chapter 13

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Questioning Sociology Chapter 13 – Is social welfare viable? Introduction - Canadians have decided that social welfare is viable and should survive o Demand publicly provided social problems o Asses the quality of our governments in terms of the services they provide o Expect that legislation and state action will reflect and enforce social norms that shape our interactions o However, there has been some profound changes in social welfare provision - Social welfare programs developed in the years following WWII o There was a social climate of solidarity  People worked together in pursuit of a common cause  People were responsible for protecting each other from a variety of social, economic, and political risks - John Maynard Keynes o In times of economic downturn, national governments should establish social programs to ensure that people would still have enough money to purchase goods (e.g., state-provided services) o Keynesian welfare state  Governments were to finance this intervention by increasing taxes in times of economic growth and by deficit spending in times of economic slowdown o The basic assumptions of the Keynesian social welfare structure were disrupted by  Globalizing economies  Transformations in labour markets  Changing family formations - Neo-liberalism o Response to the perceived failures of Keynesianism  High levels of public debt  Declining economic competitiveness  A culture of entitlement (e.g., created a passive, dependent citizenry with a weak work ethic) o The idea of solidarity or collective responsibility was replaced with an emphasis on the competitive individual who was to address his or her needs in the market (e.g., individual responsibility) o The 2008 financial crisis undermined the belief that markets could reliably ensure the health of national economies  Indicated that regulation was necessary  Indicated that the state did have a role to play to ensure some stability in the financial system Defining social welfare - Social welfare describes programs that fall into three major categories o Education (e.g., primary, secondary, post-secondary) o Health (e.g., hospital care, doctor visits) o Income supports (old age and disability pensions, unemployment insurance, student loans, minimum wage) - Some social welfare programs are delivered as direct services (e.g., school, hospital) - Other social welfare programs are provided indirectly through the tax system (e.g., tuition and textbook tax credit, RRSP) o Recipients are reimbursed for having purchase a service in the market o May reduce the tax owed by eligible citizens o May provide funds to people who meet relevant criteria - Our eligibility for social welfare is determined on a variety of bases o Universal (e.g., access to health care) o Contributory (e.g., EI, CPP/QPP)  All workers and employers pay a portion of their earnings into these schemes  Contributions do not guarantee access to benefits when people need them o Means-tested (e.g., social assistance, welfare)  Provided to people who lack sufficient economic resources to meet their basic needs The Keynesian welfare state - The Keynesian welfare state relies on relatively closed national economies that would enable national governments to increase or decrease levels of demand in order to mediate fluctuations in the market - However, Canada’s economy has been open and export-driven since the arrival of European settlers o Susceptible to demand from international markets o Degree of decentralization and constitutional jurisdiction over social policy lies within the provinces  Provincial agreement is a prerequisite for federal social policy initiatives - The Keynesian policy included the payment of a family wage to workers o Men and women had distinct roles  Men’s salaries were relatively high in order to provide for their wives and children  Women would attend to the needs of the family, with some support through social programs The crisis of the welfare state - The viability of the Keynesian model was seriously disputed in the 1980s o Globalization challenged the capacity and desire of governments to protect national economies o Pressures to reduce public spending and to encourage citizens’ involvement in their own governance increased the appeal of decentralization o Political urgency of shielding people from social risk had diminished - The pressing issues were government deficits, stagnating economies, rising unemployment and inflation, and moral decay - Anglo-American governments focused on the expense and the consequences of social programs o Social welfare engendered grave misuses of programs, undermined people’s willingness to work, and created a dependent citizenry o Pay equity (equal pay for work of equal value) and employment equity laws (to improve the representation of women, disabled people, visible minorities, and Aboriginal people in large government and corporate workplaces) were resisted or withdrawn  Because they were (1) too expensive and (2) valued quota fulfillment more than merit - Canadian governments implemented a series of measures to reduce benefits, tighten eligibility criteria, and detect fraud After the welfare state - The resolution of the crisis of the welfare state was due to neo-liberal strategies o (1) privatization, (2) marketization, (3) decentralization, (4) individualization, and (5) familialization - Neo-liberal welfare state o To reduce the role of the state in the private sphere (e.g., market, community,
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