State of Social Welfare in Africa Essay

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Analysis and Implications for Social Protection Policy and Programs in Africa

Analysis and Implications for Social Protection Policy and Programs in Africa

the role of the welfare state

The perception of welfare state requires the government to promote and protect the social well-being of citizens and their economic situation. This is guided by the doctrine of public responsibility, capital sharing, and equal opportunity. The general term covers a wide variety of social and economic organization. Social welfare is an imprecise and encompassing term. In most cases, it is defined in terms of interventions and organized activities or some other elements that suggest programs and policies aimed at improving the well-being of individuals at risk and responding to recognized social problems. (Handa, Devereux, and Webb, 2011) have shown that the concept of social welfare and protection and welfare as the roles of governments are currently emerging in Africa. The welfare state involves transferring of funds from the government to services such as healthcare and education to the citizens. In Africa, the welfare state is mostly funded through redistribution taxation including huge taxes for those with higher incomes (Handa, Devereux, & Webb, 2011). This helps in fostering equality between the poor and the rich. However, the practice has not yet kicked off in many African countries while some models used in fostering the social welfare are not as successful like the social Security system in the U.S. (Berg & Ostry, 2011).

Social insurance as a common provision in industrialized nations is a fundamental aspect of social welfare. For instance, National Insurance is found in the United Kingdom and Social Security is in the United States. Such insurances are financed by compulsory donations from the government and are intended to provide benefits to individuals and their families during periods of their greatest need. However, the cash benefits always fall considerably short of the intended levels by the designers of the plans.

The welfare state includes public provision of housing, education, and health services and in some cases at low prices or without charge. The welfare state features in many cases provision of state-subsidized tertiary education and comprehensive health coverage. System of personal taxation and antipoverty programs are also part of the welfare system. Taxation falls into this category only if it used to finance social insurance payments and if it used in the achievement of justice in income distribution.

Evidence suggests that transfers and taxes greatly reduce poverty in countries whose welfare states comprises of about twenty percent the GDP (Bradley et al., 2003). Evidently, there is little correlation between welfare expenditure and economic performance (Atkinson, 1995). They also found out there is little evidence that losses in productivity are contributed by welfare expenditures. In Africa, the successes of social welfare systems are unclear even in the developed economies.

Benefits of social protection

Social protection is the help and assistance given to those at risk of hardship or in need. It is concerned with managing, preventing, and overcoming situations that unfavorably affect the citizens' well-being. It consists of programs and policies that are designed to reduce vulnerability and poverty by limiting people's exposure to risks, enhancing an individual's capacity to manage social and economic risks, such as exclusion, old age, unemployment, and sickness. It also promotes efficient labor markets and provides a decent standard of living. The design fosters the protection of individuals affected by illnesses and other misfortunes (Bradley et al., 2003).

There are mainly three types of social protection; they include social assistance, labor market interventions, and social assistance. Labor market interventions are programs and policies that are designed to promote efficient operation of labor markets protection of workers and employment. The Labor market interventions consist of both passive and active policies. They offer protection to the poor who are incapable of gaining employment. The passive programs include changes in labor legislation, unemployment insurance, and income support. These programs alleviate the financial needs of unemployment, but are not planned to improve their employability (Atkinson, 1995).

Active programs are designed to focus directly on increasing the access of those workers that are unemployed. These policies increase the earning capacity of employees and reduce the risk of unemployment. They have two main objectives related to economic and social empowerment. Economic objective is achieved by increasing job opportunities so that earnings and productivity can be enhanced. Social objective is achieved by improving the participation and inclusion of productive employment. Active policies are useful for integrating vulnerable individuals threatened in the labor markets by reversing the negative industrial effects in transitioning economies (Bradley et al., 2003).

Active policies target workers in poor families, long-term unemployment, and some groups with labor market disadvantages. They include programs with a wide range of activities to stimulate productivity and employment such as employment services. The services include labor exchanges, counseling, and job matching and placement assistance. Job training also falls under this category including retraining for the unemployed, youth, and workers in mass layoffs to increase the quantity of work supply. The third one is direct employment generation and entails the promotion of medium and small enterprises (Bender et al., 2013).

Social insurance schemes are programs that contribute to protect beneficiaries from expenses that are catastrophic in the regular payments of premiums. Health costs may be very high. In such a case, the health insurance schemes are popular in mitigating shocks. Social assistance schemes comprise of programs that are designed to help vulnerable individuals such as victims of civil conflicts or natural disasters, single parent households and the destitute poor (Howell, 2001). These schemes include social services and welfare to groups that are vulnerable. The other option includes in-kind transfers and cash such as family allowances and food stamps. Lastly, it is temporary subsidies such as support for lower prices for food, housing subsidies, and lifeline subsidies.

Actors, institutions, and ideas influencing policy making in Africa including international agencies

Actors and institutional features may be formal or informal. In this case, we focus on the role of political party systems, elections and the world of patron-client politics. The significance of the elections in the determination of public expenditure and especially in relation to social policies reveals a strong tendency for governments to reduce interest rates and raise public expenditures in election years as a way of appealing to different constituencies. In Africa, these expenditures are mostly in the form of subsidies to investors and pay rises for public sector workers. For these reasons, welfare programs do not target the needy sections of the population, but the ones critical for the political survival of the regime (Hickey, 2007).

In Africa, the political actors and agencies mostly refer to the political elites who set the terms of policy and political debates. The definition also extends to include the bureaucratic agencies that will either implement or lobby for social protection initiatives. However, political elites are biased towards the economic empowerment of the productive but poor citizens expected to benefit from government support. This is seen in the case of Botswana and Uganda, where the rewards go individuals making the greatest contribution to the country's economy (Hickey, 2007).

The most important agencies and actors are the bureaucratic agencies with responsibility to provide social protection. In order for social protection to be a feasible policy option, countries must have high levels of bureaucratic integrity and high levels of institutional capacity (Hickey, 2007). It has been argued that in the absence of bureaucratic integrity in a country, it is better to avoid safety nets. However, the presence of financial and administrative capacity is not the surest way of determining the success of social protection. Political commitment, organizational culture, and the capacity of bureaucrats to implement and advocate for social protection initiatives are essential for the success of welfare programs in Africa (Hickey, 2007).

Politics and economics of Social Protection

Political regimes, politics, and interests are critical shaping the content, distribution, and the success of social protection. Social protection has reverberations in politics. This is mostly seen in times of crisis. Government's capacity to respond to its citizens adequately in a crisis can break or make its image in the eyes of the public. However, social protection issues are implemented in the politics of patronage, consistency building, and the electoral competition.

The dualist model of social security was persuasive across many African countries covered by these reviews was partly part of the colonial pasts and the presidents that these governments created, and partly a product of the political settlements that were part of the colonial era. The development role assumed by states, the commitment to import-substituting industrialization and support groups to maintain social stability ended up underpinning employment-based public support for selected employees and exclusion of the majority (Cook & Kabeer, 2009)

Authoritarian governments have introduced social programs as a way of buying social legitimacy or fending off pressures for the implementation of democracy.…[continue]

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