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A Comparative Analysis of Welfare Regimes in the South : The social origins of social assistance outside of the established democracies. Jeremy Seekings (University of Cape Town) Presentation at Social Policy Forum, B o ğ azici University, I stanbul , 3 Nov ember 2004.

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A Comparative Analysis of Welfare Regimes in the South:The social origins of social assistance outside of the established democracies

Jeremy Seekings

(University of Cape Town)

Presentation at Social Policy Forum, Boğazici University, Istanbul, 3 November 2004

the crisis in public welfare provision north and south
The ‘Crisis’ in Public Welfare Provision: North and South

In the ‘North’ in the late twentieth century:

  • ‘Almost all advanced industrial democracies cut entitlements in some programs’
  • but it was/is politically difficult to roll back substantially the public provision of welfare

In the ‘South’, at the same time:

  • Partial or full privatisation of contributory welfare systems (especially in Latin America and post-Communist Eastern Europe and central Asia)
  • but elsewhere: extensions of welfare provision to the poor, especially through non-contributory social assistance schemes (including Brazil and Mexico; South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana; India and Nepal; Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea)
relevant criticisms of the esping andersen three worlds typology
Relevant criticisms of the Esping-Andersen ‘three worlds’ typology?
  • It mis-categorises non-modal cases, including most late industrialising countries
  • It addresses inadequately gender differences and household/family dynamics
  • It underestimates the importance of labour-market policies influencing wages and therefore mis-categorises countries that achieved distributional goals through such policies
  • It neglects broader developmental policies, i.e. policies shaping the economic ‘growth path’ (and hence distribution)
  • It inadequately addresses the equity-enhancing imperative of ‘commodification’ (through increased employment) prior to ‘decommodification’
key elements of a distributional regime
Key elements of a ‘distributional regime’

Growth strategy

(incl. policies on sectors, skills, openness)

External context

(esp. global demand for exports)

Growth path

Redistribution through the budget: Welfare, tax and social policies

Employment- and wage-setting institutions/policies

Distributional outcome

distributional vs welfare regimes overall effects on equity
Distributional vs welfare regimes:overall effects on equity

In South Africa:

  • The welfare regime is very redistributive:
    • generous social assistance (plus pro-poor educational and health spending),
    • financed out of an efficient, progressive tax system
  • But the overall distributional regime is neutral, because:
    • Wage-setting and growth path policies produce a skill-intensive growth path and very high unemployment, increasing inequality and poverty
Today, I focus on welfare regimes, with incomplete and uneven attention to other aspects of distributional regimes
  • I focus on the question: what are the ‘social origins’ of social assistance?
  • I try to answer this question through
    • Proposing an alternative typology of the ‘Southern’ worlds of welfare capitalism, and
    • Examining how and why these different worlds were established in specific historical settings


Public expenditure / GDP


South Asia


GDP per capita


Latin America

Public expenditure/GDP

East Asia

GDP per capita






Based on Esping-


Latin America

East Asia (and World Bank model)

role of kin
Role of kin

Both state and market were/are new and weak across much of the South.

Therefore the family/kin was/is:

  • the provider of default
  • the major provider, even now for old age:
    • only 30% of the world’s elderly are covered by formal arrangements
    • only 40% of the world’s working population participate in any formal arrangements for their future old age
  • the provider, under the constitution or law, in much of South/East Asia and Africa
alternatives to kin
Alternatives to kin …
  • Rights / claims linked to commodification, i.e. to employment
    • Whether through the state (social insurance)
    • Or through ‘market’ (private, but generally state-regulated, contributory risk-pooling and saving)
  • Rights independent of commodification, i.e. ‘decommodification’
    • Social assistance, i.e. moves towards a basic income
  • Charity





Based on Esping-


Latin America

East Asia (and World Bank model)







Andersen reinterpreted



welfare regimes in the south
Welfare regimes in the South
  • Agrarian: private provision of welfare dependent on access to land and/or kin (and appropriate state support)
      • Measured through % of population receiving a subsistence income from agricultural production
  • Inegalitarian corporatism: risk-pooling and/or savings dependent on employment
    • (2a) a more market-oriented version (private, contributory schemes)
    • (2b) a more statist version (formal social insurance)
      • Measured through % of population covered by social insurance or private contributory schemes, or through benefits or contributions as % of GDP
  • Redistributive: tax-financed provision of welfare independent of employment
      • Measured through social assistance payments as % of GDP



Inegalitarian corporatism

Welfare regimes in the South




Inegalitarian corporatism

Welfare regimes in the South







periodisation of the making of welfare regimes in the south
Periodisation of the making of welfare regimes in the South
  • Early C20th: Struggles for welfare provision by industrial and public sector workers, typically among unionised immigrants primarily, with the objective of state-subsidised risk-pooling: this generally resulted in corporatist social insurance
    • outside of these social groups, poverty was the concern of kin
    • only in exceptional circumstances did the state accept the need for state-funded social assistance
  • Mid-C20th: Concern with agrarian crisis (and urban poverty) in context of wartime ideals led to reform in two directions:
    • the predominant response was the ‘developmental’ one, either through re-establishing an agrarian economy or through ISI, therefore poverty addressed by kin or through the extension of corporatıstrisk-pooling / income-smoothing among wage-earners
    • less often: the extension of social assistance
  • Late C20th: broadening of inegalitarian corporatism, i.e. broader coverage
  • End of C20th: demographic change, massive deagrarianisation and democratisation increased pressures for welfare reform including social assistance
inegalitarian corporatism in the south
(Inegalitarian) Corporatism in the South

Standard story:

  • state-enforced, contributory social insurance for (1) military (2) civil servants (3) formal workers in key sectors
  • Fragmented by occupation; unequal benefits; state subsidies; limited coverage; costs to employers passed onto consumers
  • E.g. Brazil, Chile

A deviant case: South Africa

  • 1928 non-contributory old-age pensions for white/coloured elderly (and, later, non-contributory grants for disabled people and single mothers)
  • Deagrarianisation; semi-open economy; electoral competition for non-unionised poor, urban voters; an inclusive ideology (but more racism/Afrikaner nationalism not socialism)
the agrarian moment
The Agrarian Moment

1940s: new concern with poverty across much of the colonial South (as well as the North)

Universal norms of welfare provision: 1938 New Zealand Social Security Act, 1941 Atlantic Charter, 1942 Beveridge Report, 1940/1945 (British) Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, constitutions of new postwar states, etc

Response: revive agrarian society through active state interventions (‘development’) eg land reform, marketing infrastructure, transport infrastructure, financial infrastructure, agricultural extension, social welfare (development) officers

e.g. most of Africa, South Asia, East Asia, South-east Asia

Deviant cases: South Africa, Mauritius, some Caribbean

south africa
South Africa
  • Non-contributory social assistance for white and coloured people from 1920s
  • 1944: extended to African and Indian people (but with racially unequal benefıts)
  • Why?
    • Deagrarianisation
    • Semi-open economy (gold)
    • Influence of universal norms during war
    • Paternalism, not electoral competition
  • Small, open economy: sugar estates with landless rural proletariat
  • 1937 riots => proposals but prevarication
  • 1948 competitive elections to Legislative Council (pre-independence parliament)
  • 1950: non-contributory old-age pensions
  • Meade (1961): ‘In the conditions of Mauritius, low wages (to stimulate expanded employment) plus a moderate dose of social-security benefits ór cost-of-living subsidies (to support the standard of living) together make up a very sensible policy’
south korea and taiwan
South Korea and Taiwan

Agrarian regimes until late introduction of (unsubsidised) social insurance

Open economies

Democratisation => social assistance

South Korea:

  • 1988 (to 1992) opposition parties had majority in legislature
  • 1988 contributory old-age pension system established; also national health insurance
  • 1996 opposition parties again in majority
  • 1998 non-contributory old-age pensions


  • 1993 opposition DPP promised a universal old-age pension; ruling KMT matched the promise
  • 1993: means-tested old-age pensions (1994: universal health insurance)
  • Mid-1990s: other, supplementary social assistance for small farmers and in some towns
future p rospects for social assistance
Future prospects for social assistance
  • Reforms:
    • Rhetorical support for universal/basic income? E.g. Brazil
    • Actual support for ‘deserving poor’: elderly, disabled, children, single parents
  • Pressures:
    • competitive electoral politics
    • demographic change
    • Socio-economic change (deagrarianisation, weakened kinship links)
    • Fiscal costs of public subsidies of existing social insurance schemes
    • More open economies
  • Obstacles:
    • Vetoes by beneficiaries of existing inegalitarian corporatist regime (trade unions, professional associations, pensioner associations) if subsidised
    • Fiscal conservatism