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Social safety nets and targeted social assistance : lessons from the European experience

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  • de Neubourg, Chris
  • Castonguay, Julie
  • Roelen, Keetie

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to review and compare the performance of social assistance non-contributory income support programs for the poor within the context of the Social Protection (SP) systems in European and other advanced economies. The performance and design of targeted income support to the poor differ across the advanced countries analyzed. Yet in most European countries, social assistance can be seen as an instrument of last resort after all other components of the Social Protection system have contributed to lower inequality and reduced poverty levels. The European Social Protection systems are effective and efficient, but reforms are needed as a response to changing socio-economic conditions. Of special importance are the reforms with respect to the provision of incentives for beneficiaries to become more active on the labor market, for providers to operate to be more critical when handing our benefits by changing entitlement rights as well as the containing operational costs. After all, it is the design and adjustment to local circumstances that matter when the role of social assistance in a broader SP system has been well understood. The first section of the paper provides the background necessary for analyzing the differences in the construction of the Welfare States in the various countries. The discussion is focused on the role of various components of SP systems and illustrates the large international differences in their components and their role in alleviating poverty and reducing inequality. The second section provides details on the characteristics of the social assistance (targeted income support to the poor) programs in the nine European countries. The third section discusses the differences in the performance of the social assistance systems in terms of coverage and participation, effectiveness towards reducing poverty and inequality, efficiency in delivering the benefits, and implementation issues. The fourth section reviews the recent debate towards reforms in the systems. The concluding section draws lessons from the experiences of the European countries related to the design and implementation of Social Protection systems aimed at fighting poverty and reducing inequality.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Social Protection Discussion Papers with number 41529.

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Date of creation: 01 Nov 2007
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:hdnspu:41529

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Related research

Keywords: ; Population Policies; Services&Transfers to Poor; Debt Markets; Public Sector Expenditure Policy;

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Cited by:
  1. Martin Schindler, 2009. "The Italian Labor Market," IMF Working Papers, International Monetary Fund 09/47, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Notten, Geranda & de Neubourg, Chris, 2007. "The policy relevance of absolute and relative poverty headcounts: What's in a number?," MPRA Paper 4668, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Sarah Marchal & Mechelen, N. van, 2013. "GINI DP 87: Activation strategies within European minimum income schemes," GINI Discussion Papers, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies 87, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
  4. Margaret Grosh & Carlo del Ninno & Emil Tesliuc & Azedine Ouerghi, 2008. "For Protection and Promotion : The Design and Implementation of Effective Safety Nets," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6582, August.
  5. Servaas van der Berg & Krige Siebrits & Bongisa Lekezwa, 2010. "Efficiency and equity effects of social grants in South Africa," Working Papers 15/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  6. Gentilini, Ugo & Omamo, Steven Were, 2011. "Social protection 2.0: Exploring issues, evidence and debates in a globalizing world," Food Policy, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 329-340, June.

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