The future of social protection: Ideas and policy instruments

Welfare state policies are often regarded as in need of radical overhaul. Traditional policy designs of pension systems, unemployment insurance, labour market and family support are portrayed as ineffective because they are arguably ill-equipped to respond to challenges such as growing inequalities, outdated skills, long-term unemployment, reconciling work and family life, and risks of poverty and social exclusion. Devised in the context of industrial societies and oriented at male, full-time and continuous employment, social insurance programmes have been challenged by demographic ageing, globalisation and economic uncertainties and, more generally, the transition towards post-industrial societies characterised by more flexible labour market and employment patterns, diverse household structures, greater societal and cultural heterogeneity, as well as the concentration of social disadvantages.

In this course we consider the aims and classic designs of post WWII social policy programmes and appraise their achievements, failings and challenges they are faced with in contemporary societies. We then review a range of alternative policy paradigms, radical ideas and suggestions for reforming cash benefits and service provision. Of particular interest is the consideration of the political, economic and administrative feasibility of such policy proposals.

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to systematically and critically assess the adequacy of existing policy designs (e.g. social insurance social assistance) as well as a range of alternative (or complementary) suggestions for changing social protection systems. This includes a shift towards more private social protection, and various ideas of reforming public provision, e.g. adopting ‘social investment' policies, strongly expanding early education and childcare policies, implementing flexicurity policies, and encouraging a stronger role for private finance (e.g. social impact bonds). We review new approaches in social security instruments, such as conditional cash transfer programmes, as well as radical suggestions for reform, including the idea of a universal basic income, the introduction of a participation income, and asset-based welfare.

This course is for 2nd year MIA and MPP students only.