Definition, Characteristics & Principles of Welfare State

Definition, Characteristics & Principles of Welfare State

Welfare State
According to Wikipedia, The welfare state is a concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the social and economic well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organization. The sociologist T.H. Marshall described the modern welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare, and capitalism.

A ‘welfare state’ is a system under which the government takes on responsibility for providing social and economic security for the population by means of pensions, social security benefits, free health care and free education. The government provides for people in times of need.

A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organization. "

A welfare state is a social system in which the government assumes responsibility for the well-being of citizens by making sure that people have access to basic resources such as housing, health care, education, and employment.
Modern welfare states include Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, as well as the Nordic countries, such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland which employ a system known as the Nordic model. Esping-Andersen classified the most developed welfare state systems into three categories; Social Democratic, Conservative, and Liberal.
The welfare state involves a transfer of funds from the state, to the services provided (i.e., healthcare, education, etc.), as well as directly to individuals ("benefits"). It is funded through redistributionist taxation and is often referred to as a type of "economy”. Such taxation usually includes a larger income tax for people with higher incomes, called a progressive tax. Proponents argue that this helps reduce the income gap between the rich and poor.

The idea of the "welfare state" means different things in different countries.
  1. An ideal model. 
    • The "welfare state" often refers to an ideal model of provision, where the state accepts responsibility for the provision of comprehensive and universal welfare for its citizens.
  2. State welfare.
    • Some commentators use it to mean nothing more than "welfare provided by the state". This is the main use in the USA.
  3. Social protection.
    • In many "welfare states", notably those in Western Europe and Scandinavia, social protection is not delivered only by the state, but by a combination of government, independent, voluntary, and autonomous public services. The "welfare state" in these countries is then a system of social protection rather than a scheme operated by government.
Modern Model of Welfare State
Modern welfare programs differed from previous schemes of poverty relief due to their relatively universal coverage. The development of social insurance in Germany under Bismarck was particularly influential. Some schemes were based largely in the development of autonomous, mutualist provision of benefits. Others were founded on state provision. The term was not, however, applied to all states OFFERING social protection. The sociologist T.H. Marshall identified the welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare and capitalism. Examples of early welfare states in the modern world are Germany, all of the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Uruguay and New Zealand and the United Kingdom in the 1930s.

Principles of Welfare State
The Welfare State was based on four principles. It was to be:
§  Collectivist
§  Universal
§  Comprehensive
§  Equal
(Provide a service from the ‘cradle to the grave’)

§  The state would fund the services needed.
§  Raise funds through NI contributions.
§  The treasury decides the level of pensions and benefits and succeeding governments decide on the levels of investment.
§  People on the right of the political spectrum believe that too much money is spent on the NHS and dislike high taxation. Prefer Individualist approach.
§  People on the left believe that the NHS does not do enough to help vulnerable groups such as women and ethnic minorities. Prefer Collectivist approach.

§  Provide a range of services for the whole population that was free at the point of need. Mostly remained this way.
§  However not applied across all provisions- charges for dental care, prescriptions (England) etc.

§  The state would undertake to provide for all aspects of need.
§  Slay the five giants.
§  Improve health - NHS was taking responsibility for all aspects of the nation’s health care.
§  Tackling poverty- challenging in the current economic climate.
§  Therefore at the moment…not as comprehensive as Beveridge intended.

§  The aim of the Welfare State for equal provision for all people in all regions and areas.
§  However ‘post-code’ lottery of services.

The Distinct Features of Welfare State
1. An Instrument for Social Welfare:
The welfare state is dedicated to the welfare of people. It seeks to provide minimum facilities to all people, to remove poverty, hunger and unemployment, and to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. It aims at establishing social and economic justice.
2. A Compromise between Individualisms and Socialism:
The welfare state, while avoiding the two extreme theories, namely, individualism and socialism, opts for a middle path between them. It is in fact the mid-point between these two extremes; it gives equal importance to both individual and state.
It values both the liberty of the individual and the interests of the society. The state is considered the friend, philosopher and guide of the individual.
3. Establishment of Democracy:
The welfare state is a democratic state. It functions through democratic institutions and in a democratic way. Democracy is a fundamental basis of the welfare state. *
4. Equal Rights of All:
It gives equal rights to all irrespective of caste, race and religion. It does not discriminate against anybody. It treats all equally.
5. Development through Planning:
It believes in planning. It seeks to provide welfare to people through planned programmes. It follows 'mixed economy' model of development. The state controls and regulates economy through planning.
6. Moral Development of Individual:
The welfare state creates conducive environment for the moral development of individual. When the individual is able to meet his basic needs of life and enjoys fundamental rights and freedoms, his self-confidence grows and his personality develops. The development of social morality makes the state strong and individual happy.
7. A Positive State:
The welfare state is a positive state. It regards itself more as an agency of social service than as an instrument of power. It is said that in a welfare state "the individual has only to get him born, the state will do the rest". The state looks after the individual from the cradle to the grave.
8. Social welfare is the Right of Individual, not a Dole from the State:
An eminent political scientist of India, Asirvatham observes, "The first important thing to remember is that welfare is not a matter of charity, but of right. Secondly, if welfare is to be genuine welfare, the ground for it should have been prepared by the various agencies at work in the state. In the third place, if the welfare state is to be a blessing and not a curse, it should not produce a pauper mentality on the part of its recipients."

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