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The "Enabling State?" from Public to Private Responsibility for Social Protection: Pathways and Pitfalls


  • Neil Gilbert


Policies designed to advance the march toward private financing and delivery of social services follow five main pathways. While some of these approaches to privatization are more direct and transparent than others, all may be pursued simultaneously. Three approaches concentrate on increasing private financing and the other two on increasing the production and delivery of goods and services by the private sector: • Encouragement through tax incentives • Requirements through fees for service • Mandating through legislation • Providing public benefits in the form of cash or vouchers • Purchase-of-service arrangements. Along each of these five paths the state plays a direct or indirect role in stimulating private financing or delivery of benefits in cash or kind. All social welfare benefits are to some degree subsidized or mandated by the state — in part it is the public intervention by fiscal or legal means that makes these benefits “social.” Some social goods and services may be more amenable to public or private provision than others. And traditional relations among government, business, and labour in different societies will certainly influence the preferred paths toward increased private responsibility. In treading the pathways toward privatization, the objective is not to find the shortest route, but to avoid the pitfalls along the way – and to chart a course that is not so focussed on economic efficiency that it loses sight of the public purpose of social protection. Les politiques élaborées pour favoriser le mouvement vers le financement et la distribution privés des services sociaux suivent cinq directions principales. Alors que certaines de ces orientations favorables à la privatisation sont plus directes et transparentes que d’autres, toutes peuvent être poursuivies simultanément. Trois approches s’orientent vers l’accroissement du financement privé et les deux autres vers l’augmentation de la production et de la fourniture de biens et de services par le secteur privé : • Encouragement par le biais d’incitations fiscales • Obligations par le biais de frais pour services rendus • Prescrire par le biais de la législation • Fournir des prestations publiques sous forme d’espèces ou de coupons • Mécanismes d’achat de service. Tout au long de ces cinq directions, l’Etat joue un rôle direct et indirect en stimulant le financement privé ou la distribution de prestations en espèces ou en nature. Toutes les prestations de protection sociale sont dans une certaine mesure subventionnées ou mandatées par l’Etat – c’est en partie l’intervention publique de par leurs moyens légaux et fiscaux qui rendra ces prestations « sociales ». Quelques biens et services sociaux peuvent mieux se prêter que d’autres à la prestation publique ou privée que d’autres. Et les relations traditionnelles entre les pouvoirs publics parmi le gouvernement, le monde des affaires et celui du travail dans différentes sociétés ne manqueront pas d’influencer les trajectoires optimales pour augmenter la responsabilité privée. En suivant la voie de la privatisation, il ne s’agit pas de trouver la voie la plus courte, mais d’éviter les écueils tout au long du chemin et de définir un cap en se gardant de privilégier l’efficacité économique au détriment de l’objectif public de protection sociale.

Suggested Citation

  • Neil Gilbert, 2005. "The "Enabling State?" from Public to Private Responsibility for Social Protection: Pathways and Pitfalls," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 26, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:26-en

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Leticia I. Lopez & Blanca C. Garcia, 2016. "Starting early: relational capital networks for street children in emerging knowledge-based public service models," International Journal of Knowledge-Based Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 7(1), pages 43-62.
    2. Zapfel, Stefan & Promberger, Markus, 2011. "Gemeinschaft, Gesellschaft und soziale Sicherung : Überlegungen zu Genese und Wandel des modernen Wohlfahrtsstaats," IAB Discussion Paper 201121, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
    3. David Roodman & Scott Standley, 2006. "Tax policies to promote private charitable giving in DAC countries," Working Papers 82, Center for Global Development.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out

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