The Generosity of Social Insurance, 1971--2002
International comparisons of national social policy rely overwhelmingly on programme spending ratios. However, there are widespread problems with this type of data as an indicator of trends in societies' commitments to social protection. This paper suggests an alternative approach to understanding social commitments and introduces a new international data set of social insurance programmes that is comprised of important characteristics of three types of public insurance: unemployment, sick pay, and public pensions. The data are available annually from the 1970s for 18 OECD countries. Looking more closely at trends in two programme characteristics, income replacement rates and programme coverage, we develop an indicator of expected benefits. According to this indicator, there is considerably more evidence of welfare state retrenchment in recent years than most analyses of public spending have suggested. Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.
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