IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Macro-, Meso- and Microeconomic considerations in the delivery of social services


  • Ben Freyens


Purpose - In the wake of public service liberalisation in many OECD countries, economic interventions into the purpose and implementation of social policies have gained a lot of interest in recent years. The prime aim of this paper is to describe the nature of these interventions. The paper examines the reasons for pursuing elusive efficiency objectives in the conduct of public policy, rationales for purchaser-provider splits, evaluation of cost-quality relationships, service costing and pricing, and the influence of “external” economic variables. Design/methodology/approach - The paper breaks the analysis of public policy down to three layers of economic interventions: macroeconomics (allocative efficiency, intervention rationales and macroeconomic environment), mesoeconomics (economics of delivery in “social industries”) and microeconomics (agent behaviour, contracting, pricing and evaluation). Each level of economic intervention is illustrated with examples, mainly taken from Australian public policy and mainstream social economic research. Findings - Some of the most critical questions in policy implementation (outsourcing, pricing, contracting and agency problems) can be traced back to economic reforms. Experiments with new modes of service delivery are driven by a changing economic context, yet the efficiency gains from these innovative approaches may come at the expense of service quality. Practical implications - Changing macro-, meso- and microeconomic variables profoundly alter the parameters of service delivery. Designers and managers of service delivery systems need to be aware of – and skilled in – the practical application of economic principles, concepts and methods. Originality/value - Except for the health sector, there is a lack of consistent research on the interrelationships between the standard economics toolkit and the delivery of public services. Yet the two are profoundly intertwined. The paper helps distinguish these relationships by putting together elements of conceptual analysis and fieldwork.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Freyens, 2008. "Macro-, Meso- and Microeconomic considerations in the delivery of social services," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 35(11), pages 823-845, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:v:35:y:2008:i:11:p:823-845

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:v:35:y:2008:i:11:p:823-845. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Virginia Chapman). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.