What is Welfare State?

Features, Principles and Functions of Welfare State

Definition of Welfare State


According to Wikipedia, The welfare state is a concept of government in which the state plays a crucial role in protecting and promoting its citizens' social and economic well-being. It is based on 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 organisation. The sociologist T.H. Marshall described the modern welfare state as a distinctive democracy, welfare, and capitalism.

{tocify} $title={Table of Contents}


'A 'welfare state' is a system under which the government takes responsibility for providing social and economic security for the population through 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 citizens' well-being by ensuring that people access essential resources such as housing, health care, education, and employment.

Modern welfare states include Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and 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 an " economy " type. 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 providing 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 primary 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 the government.

Modern Model of Welfare State


Modern welfare programs differ from previous poverty relief schemes due to their relatively universal coverage. The development of social insurance in Germany under Bismarck was particularly influential. Some schemes were based mainly on developing the autonomous, mutualist provision of benefits. Others were founded on state provision. However, the term was not 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, Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Uruguay and New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in the 1930s.



4 Principles of Welfare State


The Welfare State was based on four principles. It was to be:

a)   Collectivist

b)  Universal

c)   Comprehensive

d)  Equal

(Provide a service from the 'cradle to the grave')


1. Collectivist

§  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 political spectrum believe that too much money is spent on the NHS and dislike high taxation. Prefer the Individualist approach.

§  People on the left think that the NHS does not do enough to help vulnerable groups such as women and ethnic minorities. Prefer the Collectivist approach.


2. Universal

§  Provide a range of services for the whole population free at the point of need. Mostly remained this way.

§  However not applied across all provisions- charges for dental care, prescriptions (England) etc.


3. Comprehensive

§  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.


4. Equal

§ The aim of the Welfare State is for equal provision for all people in all regions and areas.

§ However' post-code lottery of services.


The Distinct Features of the 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, remove poverty, hunger, and unemployment, and bridge the gap between the rich and poor. It aims at establishing social and economic justice.

2. A Compromise between Individualism 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 society. The state is considered the individual's friend, philosopher, and guide.

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 programs. It follows the 'mixed economy' model of development. The state controls and regulates the economy through planning.

6. Moral Development of Individuals: The welfare state creates a conducive environment for the moral development of individuals. When the individual can meet his basic needs and enjoys fundamental rights and freedoms, his self-confidence grows, and his personality develops. The development of social morality makes the state strong and individuals happy.

7. A Positive State: The welfare state is positive. It regards itself more as an agency of social service than an instrument of power. 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 genuine, 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 its recipients."


Three Functions of the Welfare State

A government places a welfare program to ensure a certain standard and quality of living for everyone in a country. It would primarily focus on children, ensuring their parents will clothe and feed them properly. Other things it covers are daycare assistance, food stamps and unemployment.


Welfare State undertakes numerous functions, which are divided into :


A. Regulative FunctionsThese include: (i) maintaining law and order, (ii)PROMOTING peace, (iii) curbing anti-social elements and their activities, (iv) putting down communal, caste and class clashes, (v) checking exploitation of labourers bypassing necessary legislation etc.


B. Protective FunctionsThese include: (i) maintenance of internal ORDER, (ii) protecting territorial integrity, (iii) maintenance of essential institutions, (iv) maintenance of a good network of the postal system, transport and communication systems, (v) regulation of trade, markets, weights and measures, (vi) prevention of theft, decoity and other criminal activities, (vii) conducting foreign relations with other countries, (viii) administering justice and punishing criminals, and (ix) safeguarding the country's territories sovereignty and independence against external attacks and invasions etc.


C. Welfare FunctionsThese include: (i) eradicating the spread of contagious diseases like malaria, cholera etc. (ii) eradicating illiteracy by establishing educational institutions, (iii) reducing the economic inequalities by taking steps for distribution of national income, (iv) providing employment opportunities to all qualified persons (v) improving the working conditions of the workers by fixing hours of work, compensation etc. (vi) creating a healthy atmosphere in and outside industries. (vii) providing adequate social services such as unemployment benefits, disability benefits, maternity benefits etc. (vii) introducing jail reforms for speedy disposal of cases and reducing the cost of judicial litigation, (ix) introducing land reforms, (x) encouraging cottage and small-scale industries, (xi) undertaking Community Development Programmes, and (xii) checking social evils, etc. In BRIEF, Welfare State provides full employment, social security, housing, health, and education.



Major 18 Functions of Welfare State


There are More Other Functions


(1) Maintenance of Peace and ORDER: The welfare state ensures internal peace and order and provides security to its citizens. It efficiently guards its territory against external aggressions or threats. It maintains law and order and establishes political stability. This reduces constant tension and anxiety for its people.


(2) Protects People's Rights and Provides Justice: The welfare state assures its people the inalienable fundamental rights. It guarantees the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, equality, property, freedom of thought, and expression. It provides justice to all irrespective of class, colour, creed, caste, religion or region.


(3) Conservation of NATURAL  Resources: The welfare state tries to conserve its natural resources against competitive private interests in the community's general appeal. It prevents the wasteful consumption of the community's resources, forests, fisheries, wildlife, minerals, art treasures, etc.


(4) Provision of Education: The welfare state prioritises education. It creates op­portunities for individuals to develop their personalities. It encourages the weaker SECTIONS of society to grow educationally and economically. Some states like India have introduced free but compulsory education at primary and secondary levels. The welfare state on its own pro­vides for primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities, research centres, libraries, art classes, technical schools and institutes, medical and agricultural institutes, etc.


(5) Arrangement of Public Utility Services: The modern welfare states construct roads, rail­ways and provide for irrigation, water supply, and electric works. It includes post and telegraph, radio, television, TELEPHONE, and other services. It makes arrangements for transport such as buses, railways, aeroplanes and ships.


(6) Encouragement of Trade, Industry, Commerce, and Agriculture: The welfare state establishes some big industries to PROMOTE industrial advancement and avoid exploita­tion. The states often control iron and steel, locomotives, aircraft and other heavy industries, big dams, multi-purpose projects, primary transport and communication lines, etc.


Specific industries are nationalised in the interests of the people. Still, the welfare state gives private parties and individuals enough to establish factories and start businesses to promote initial growth. The state also estates cottage or household industries and agriculture.


(7) Organisation of Labour: The welfare state gives SPECIAL attention to the needs of the working class. It makes appropriate labour legislation and prevents their exploitation. It promotes their wel­fare in various ways. It gives them the freedom to organise labour unions to protect their rights. It tries to better the living conditions of the people also.

(8) Protection of Old, Poor and the Handicapped: The modern welfare states have taken it for granted as their main canon to protect the interests of the old, poor, and the invalid. The old and the retired people are given a pension, the unemployed and the handicapped are given maintenance allow­ance. Various social security measures are undertaken to provide the needed protection to all the needy people of the state.

(9) State tendency of Public Health: The welfare state provides many preventive and curative medical facilities to safeguard public health. It provides sanitation, hospitals, complementary medicine, vaccination and essential energising foods for the poor. It arranges to control deadly diseases like malaria, cholera, smallpox, plague, TB, venereal diseases, skin diseases, lep­rosy, etc. It runs medical colleges, research centres, training schools for nurses, etc.


(10) Arrangement of Recreation: The state provides various means of recreation to its citizens, like films, drama, music, exhibitions, fairs, etc. It also establishes public parks, museums, libraries, playgrounds, conducts competitions to encourage merit, and awards the talented per­sons.


(11) Maintains Social Harmony: The welfare state lays down laws against evil and harmful customs and practices. By various means, it tries to bring people with different socio-religious back­ground nearer. It strives to PROMOTE social harmony by creating better understanding among people.


(12) Prevents Disorganisation: The welfare state also tries to prevent or check the process of socio-economic disorganisation. It uses various means to solve such socio-economic problems as crime, juvenile delinquency, prostitution, untouchability, population problem, poverty, beggary, etc. The efficiency of a welfare state can be measured by its successful attempts in removing these problems.


(13) Protection of life and property: The first and most IMPORTANT duty of the state is to protect its people's lives and property. Some writers believe that the state came into existence for this very purpose. The state makes state regarding life and property. It checks others from interfering in the affairs of the individual. If any individual violates the law of the state, he isstateshed. The state regulates the social life of the individual through statutes.


(14) Protection from external invasion or defence: External security means security from external danger, either a military invasion or encroachment upon international rights. Therefore, the state should be fit to defend itself against foreign attacks. For this purpose, it maintains a standing army a navy and fights in defence of the state. In peace, the state must deal with foreign powers and look after its international interest. It also maintains diplomatic relations with other countries.


(15) Dispensing justice: It is an essential function that states organise an independent and powerful judiciary. In the absence of an independent judiciary, people cannot have justice. The state must state in civil and criminal courts to administer justice. No liberty is possible without the rule of law. Those who violate the law should be punished. The state should state late the conduct and activities of individuals in the interests of all.


(16) Physical welfare: Physical welfare of citizens is considered an optional function of the modern state. It is achieved by providing medical facilities, sanitation and a conservancy system. Most of the current States perform these functions. Public health and hygiene of the people are essential in every state.


(17) Export and Import trade: No State is self-sufficient today. It has to IMPORT certain goods from other countries and export them to other countries. The state is to state laws relating to import and export policies. The people cannot be given complete freedom to import and export goods.


Those goods should be imported from other countries, which are essential, and those goods should be exported to other countries, which are surplus. If the state regulates import-export, the people's plight will be miserable, and there will be a trade imbalance.


(18) Social and economic security: The State is morally bound to remove poverty and unemployment. It should, therefore, provide protection against old age. Unemployment, etc. It can be done by introducing insurance schemes against accidents, old age etc.


Thus, it is clear now that the function of the welfare state is not merely administration but integral welfare and development of its subjects. In fact, there is no limit to what the welfare state can do for the service of the community. The famous statement state help kill self-help is not always accurate. Still, the Welfare State is not all in all.


The state cannot interfere in all kinds of human activities in the name of welfare. It cannot prescribe morality, cannot dictate opinion, cannot proclaim new customs and FASHIONS, cannot create a new culture and also cannot advocate new religious doctrines of universal application. The state should state its limitations. It should not venture to do a task for which it is unqualified.


Too much interference of the state in the state of the people would destroy the very spirit of freed the veteran Indian Sarvodaya leader Late Sri Jayaprakash Narawho said in unmistakable terms that "in the present world the state, not state its totalitarian form but also in its welfare variety, is assuming larger and larger power and responsibility. In the name of welfare, the welfare state threatens to enslave man to the state as totalitarian. The people must cry halt to this creeping paralysis."

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post