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Social assistance and minimum income benefits: Benefit levels, replacement rates and policies across 33 countries, 1990-2009

Listed author(s):
  • Wang, Jinxian
  • Van Vliet, Olaf

Until recently, social assistance has received relatively little attention in the comparative welfare state literature, which is remarkable given its central function in combating poverty and pursuing social inclusion. This paper explores the developments of social assistance and minimum income benefits across 14 Western European countries, 12 Central and Eastern European countries and 7 non-European countries over the period 1990-2009. First, an institutional analysis shows that eligibility conditions, work requirements and benefit sanctions vary considerably across countries. Second, relying on new indicators, our analysis shows that real benefit levels increased in most countries, whilst the net income replacement rates declined on average. This development seems to fit with a ‘making work pay’ agenda. A subsequent qualitative analysis of the policies underlying the quantitative measures indicates that the declining replacement rates do not result from benefit cuts but from relatively larger wage increases. In addition, our policy analysis indicates that work requirements and benefit sanctions have become more activating in many countries. Third, the data indicate that social assistance benefits diverged across EU and other OECD countries between 1990 and 2009. Finally, this paper seeks to make a methodological contribution to the ongoing debate on the ‘dependent variable problem’ in the welfare state literature by analysing to what extent changes in quantitative indicators reflect actual policy changes.

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File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/66464/1/MPRA_paper_66464.pdf
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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 66464.

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Date of creation: 20 Dec 2014
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:66464
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  1. Koen Caminada & Kees Goudswaard & Olaf Van Vliet, 2010. "Patterns of Welfare State Indicators in the EU: Is there Convergence?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48, pages 529-556, June.
  2. Matsaganis, Manos & Levy, Horacio & Flevotomou, Maria, 2010. "Non take up of social benefits in Greece and Spain," EUROMOD Working Papers EM7/10, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  3. Peter Saunders, 1995. "Improving work incentives in a means-tested welfare system: The 1994 Australian social security reforms," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 16(2), pages 45-70, May.
  4. Marchal, Sarah & Marx, Ive & Van Mechelen, Natascha, 2011. "Do Europe's Minimum Income Schemes Provide Adequate Shelter against the Economic Crisis and How, If at All, Have Governments Responded?," IZA Discussion Papers 6264, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Marx, Ive & Marchal, Sarah & Nolan, Brian, 2012. "Mind the Gap: Net Incomes of Minimum Wage Workers in the EU and the US," IZA Discussion Papers 6510, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. World Bank, 2012. "World Development Indicators 2012," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6014, December.
  7. Jörg Paetzold & Olaf Van Vliet, 2014. "EU Co-Ordination and the Convergence of Domestic Unemployment Protection Schemes," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(5), pages 1070-1089, September.
  8. Peter Saunders, 1995. "Improving Work Incentives in a Means-Tested Welfare System: The 1994 Australian Social Security Reforms," Discussion Papers 0056, University of New South Wales, Social Policy Research Centre.
  9. Immervoll, Herwig, 2009. "Minimum-Income Benefits in OECD Countries: Policy Design, Effectiveness and Challenges," IZA Discussion Papers 4627, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Koen Caminada & Kees Goudswaard, 2001. "International Trends in Income Inequality and Social Policy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 8(4), pages 395-415, August.
  11. Gregg, Paul & Waldfogel, Jane & Washbrook, Elizabeth, 2006. "Family expenditures post-welfare reform in the UK: Are low-income families starting to catch up?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 721-746, December.
  12. Pellizzari, Michele, 2006. "Unemployment duration and the interactions between unemployment insurance and social assistance," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 773-798, December.
  13. Peter Whiteford, 1995. "The Use of Replacement Rates in International Comparisons of Benefit Systems," Discussion Papers 0054, University of New South Wales, Social Policy Research Centre.
  14. Rodrik, Dani, 2012. "The Globalization Paradox: Why Global Markets, States, and Democracy Can't Coexist," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199652525.
  15. Bea Cantillon, 2011. "The Paradox of the Social Investment State. Growth, Employment and Poverty in the Lisbon Era," Working Papers 1103, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  16. Natascha Van Mechelen & Sarah Marchal & Tim Goedemé & Ive Marx & Bea Cantillon, 2011. "The CSB-Minimum Income Protection Indicators dataset (CSB-MIPI)," Working Papers 1105, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
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