1. Global regime analysis


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Three contrasting approaches to ‘global social policy’ outlined here:

1. Global regime analysis

2. Role of supranational agencies – see also seminar 15

3. Gender, feminism and transnational social policy


1.  Global Regime Analysis: Mapping Social Policies Across The Global South

Gough & Therborn (2010) analysed 65 nation-states, excluding the rich OECD states, micro-states with a population less than 3m, and states for which data is not available or adequate. This means that many populous states are not included, most notably perhaps Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq and Vietnam. The parameters are: Aid per capita/GNI; Workers’ remittances/ GNI; Public spending on health and education/GDP; Social contributions/total revenue; School enrolment – secondary and girls; Immunization against measles (% of children under 12); Life expectancy at birth; Illiteracy rate (% aged 15-24).

This generates 8 country clusters for the year 2000, labelled A to H.

p.711 “Countries in cluster A, and only these, exhibit some characteristics of Western welfare states and may be labelled proto-welfare states. These countries share in common relatively extensive state commitments to welfare provision and relatively [p713] effective delivery of services plus moderately extensive social security programmes and superior welfare outcomes (by the standards of the non-OECD world). Apart from Israel and Costa Rica, this cluster comprises two distinct geographical zones and historical antecedents: the countries of the former Soviet Union and its bloc members and the relatively industrialized countries of southern South America. Both developed European-style forms of social protection policies in the middle of the 20thC, and both suffered degradation of these through the external imposition of neo-liberal programmes”. In the post-communist era male life expectancy in Russia and Ukraine fell from 62 to 59, “though the central European countries admitted to the EU have fared much better.”

“Cluster B exhibits the second-best level of welfare outcomes and social service outputs, yet with low levels of state social spending (and low reliance on external flows of aid and remittances). This interesting combination suggests that insecurity and illfare are mitigated by fast-growing average incomes and/or by other domestic, non-state institutions. This combination is found in three major world regions:

(1)  China and most countries in East Asia from Korea to Malaysia (except Indonesia which dropped out of this group in 2000 having suffered most from the 1997 crisis)

(2)  The remaining countries of South and Central America not in cluster A

(3)  Some countries in Western Asia (Iran, Turkey and Tajikstan).

Countries in this group are mainly but not always low-middle income, with high growth rates, but are relatively undemocratic and unequal. This group includes some countries that have achieved historic reductions in poverty levels (living under $1 a day PPP at 2005 prices): China’s economic take off cut its proportion of the global poverty population from 41% in 1981 to 16% in 2005...”

“Cluster C is similar to the above group but is distinguished by greater reliance on remittances from abroad which account for 9% of GNI on average and which constitute an informal functional alternative to public transfers. It comprises small countries in the Caribbean and Central America, plus Ecuador, Morocco and Sri Lanka.”

“In southern and east Africa a distinct cluster D exhibited in 2000 relatively extensive public social policy (in both tax, expenditures and outreach and literacy levels), but these improvements were swamped by rising mortality and morbidity due mainly to the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Cluster E (Cameroon, Congo Rep, Ghana, Indonesia, Tanzania) has less extensive social policy and poorer outcomes than cluster D.”

“Cluster F is centred on countries in the Indian sub-continent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal – exhibits modest expenditure and social programmes alongside high levels of youth illiteracy and low numbers of females in secondary education....[p714] These states boast a plethora of targeted social programmes and informal security mechanisms. However the absence of effective schooling, health and social protection policies coupled with highly gendered outcomes...betokens high levels of insecurity among the mass of the population.”

On India, see Dreze & Sen (2013)

“Clusters G & H These countries in sub-Saharan Africa exhibit low and in some cases failing life expectancy alongside relatively weak states with relatively low levels of public responsibility, indicated both by spending levels and social outputs, and higher dependence on overseas aid. The prevalence of poverty is also high and persistent.”

Abu Sharkh & Gough (2010) compare 2000 with 1990. They found that membership of these clusters is ‘sticky’ over time, ie. there is path dependency. There were two major trends over that decade. pp49-50: “First, labor migration and remittances provided new and significant but informal sources of monetary security for a number of countries, usually exceeding the share of public social spending in GDP” particularly in the cluster centered on the Caribbean and Central America. Second, the HIV-AIDS pandemic further differentiated the morbidity-insecurity cluster identified in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2000, even the development of more extensive social programs in a number of countries could not withstand the impact of this egregious threat to human welfare.”

“Despite some catch-up in income per head by clusters B & C there is no evidence yet of a convergence towards a proto-welfare state regime. The extent of democracy expanded in the last decade of the millennium, but… there is little evidence to date that the spread of civil and political rights hastens the spread of social rights”. For Abu Sharkh & Gough (2010) historical path of development and internal cultural diversity are the most significant factors shaping clusters B to H. Economic modernisation in clusters B & C is certainly having an impact on social policy as we saw in Topics 8 and 9..


Abu Sharkh, M. & Gough, I. (2010) ‘Global Welfare Regimes : A Cluster Analysis’ Global Social Policy 10(1) webLearn

Dreze, J. & Sen, A. (2013) An Uncertain Glory: India & Its Contradictions, LMet ebook

Gough, I. & Therborn, G. (2010) Ch.48 in Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State on webLearn


2. The role of supranational agencies in the shaping of social policy in transitional and developing societies – see also Seminar 15

From Deacon, B. (2007):

p.169  “The World Bank’s role in shaping and damaging national social policy in a development and transition context has been very important in the 1980s and 1990s. Its insistence on user charges prevented access to education and health. Its beneficiary index demonstrating that public spending often benefited those other than the poor was used in effect to undermine the embryonic welfare states of Latin America, South Asia and Africa. The losers were the urban middle class who had depended upon state universities and hospitals and pensions. These losers are being thrown into the arms of new global private service providers, and as a consequence abandoning their historic roles as state builders. Which policy is emphasised by the Bank is often sector-specific: privatisation is, according to many in the Bank, good for pensions and for tertiary education. In the health sector, a privatising strategy is questioned by some but clearly supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC, part of the World Bank Group). The intellectual struggle between those who still favour safety nets for the poor and private services for the better off, and those more attuned to the European story of cross-class [p170] alliances shaping better public services for all, does now seem to be tilting in favour of the latter. Indeed, partly because of the influence of the heretic social development section of the Bank, it is true that one reading of the World Development Report 2006 is that concern with the institutional and political barriers to equity are also now centre stage, even in the Bank. The problem [for progressives in the Bank]... is that they are working in an institution that does not have global legitimacy.”

“The thrust of International Monetary Fund (IMF) social policy in the 1990s was also the ‘safety net’ comprising targeted subsidies, cash compensation in lieu of subsidies, or improved distribution of essentials such as medicine. Although criticism of the Fund’s structural adjustment facility led to its replacement [in the late 1990s] by its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, critics continue to point out the contradiction between the IMF’s short-term concerns with macroeconomic stability and these longer-term poverty reduction goals. IMF fiscal targets often lead to diminished social spending. However in terms of the IMF’s own account of its social policy prescriptions for countries, there has been a significant shift from the structural adjustment days. It now cites approvingly evidence of social spending in countries that received IMF support, claiming that real spending on education has increased.”

“The World Trade Organisation (WTO, formed in 1995 out of GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) is also impacting upon national social policies in controversial ways, particularly in terms of boosting global private service providers (GATS – General Agreement on Trade in Services) and in terms of the constraints of the TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) agreement”. The latter, for example, protects the patents of pharmaceutical companies through licensing.

“The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) occupies a position somewhere between the market opening and liberalising push of the IMF and WTO on the one hand, and the concern of the UN social agencies on the other to protect public services. It has argued that globalisation creates the need for more, not less social expenditure”.

The UN’s principal social agencies are: ILO, WHO, UNESCO, UNDP, UNHCR:

“Although the World Bank took over the global leadership role in the 1980s and 1990s and argued for and secured the roll-back of the state system of pensions in favour of privatised and individualised forms, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) fought long and hard to expose what it regarded as flaws in dominant WB thinking...arguing that there was no demographic imperative leading to privatisation, that the European-style schemes are reformable and sustainable, and that the privatisation strategy is merely a cover to increase the share of private capital savings...It argued that this strategy was risky in the context of unregulated capital markets and imposes a heavy burden on current workers who have to finance the existing Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) system as well as funding their own schemes.”

p.171 “The WB also cast its shadow over the work of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has sought to shift its discourse ‘from a purely normative one about ‘Health for All’’ to one in which ‘health expenditures were to be encouraged not because they were morally desirable, but because they were a sound investment in human capital”.

“WB v. UN social agency issues arose also with regard to education and the role of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Within the context of the Education for All campaign with which UNESCO is centrally connected, the big question of money was in effect left to the Bank who would manage the funds for education”.

“Similarly the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) ownership of and responsibility for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) sits uneasily alongside the equally important role of the WB in a development context...’.  p75 ‘MDGs became a major plank of UN policy in 2000 [making] ten commitments’, embracing poverty eradication, universal primary education, gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating infectious disease, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a ‘global partnership for development”.  See lecture 11

p.171  “MDGs represented both progress and retrenchment. The progress was in the timelines for meeting them and for the commitment embodied in goal 8 of the development of global partnership for development. The retrenchment was in the focus on targeting the poorest of the poor and in its focus only on primary education and reproductive health...The main issue with regard to the realising of the MDGs was that the countries would have to plan increased public expenditures” while under the supervision of WB/IMF promoting public expenditure restraint and privatisation.

“It does seem, in 2006, that the tide has turned against the targeting and privatising view, and the opportunity now exists for the UN working with sympathetic donors such as the Scandinavians and some other European countries to undo the damage wrought by the Bank over the past decades”.

p.173  “Beyond the ‘big social actors’ in the last decade the world has been ‘stumbling towards articulating a global social policy of global redistribution, global social regulation and global social rights...more significant than the recent increase in Overseas Development Aid (ODA) have been the birth of new global funds for health and education and social protection...These funds have their critics because they tend to suggest that.., for example, improved health can only be secured through pharmaceutical and technical ‘vertical’ programmes rather than also broad-based ‘horizontal’ public health programmes within countries. Their accountability is also called into question...”. An enormous and growing range of ‘non-state actors’ are also of course involved in ‘social policy’ beyond the West.

According to Deacon (2010) in trying to move on from the minimalist neoliberal ‘safety nets’ discourse, UN agencies are advocating a ‘global social floor’ – a minimum social protection package involving universal access to essential services (water, sanitation, health care, education) and a basic set of social transfers (benefits and pensions).

He argues that this is progressive but insufficient because “the issue to be addressed is the middle class and their historic role in state led development. Effective functioning states which meet the welfare needs of their citizens and residents do so because they also meet the welfare needs of their state builders. In sum: a focus on the poor distracts from cross class solidarity building and undermines the middle class commitment to pay taxes; Countries need higher education as well as primary, city hospitals as well as rural clinics, wage related pensions as well as social pensions and cash transfers to poor; We need to pay civil servants, judges, tax collectors more money to avoid endemic corruption; The recurrent budget of the state needs to be in aid budgets.”

He concludes that “rather than continued frustrating engagement with the stalled policy and governance agenda at a global level it would be better for the Global South to fashion its own social development policies in the new spirit of South-South Cooperation and World-regional co-operation”.  See also Deacon & Cohen (2011)

Deacon, B. (2007) Global Social Policy and Governance, Sage  LondonMet ebook

Deacon, B. (2010) ‘Global Social Floor or Global Social Investment’  webLearn

Deacon, B. & Cohen, S. (2011) ‘From the global politics of poverty alleviation to the global politics of solidarity’ Global Social Policy 11(2-3) webLearn

3. Gender, Feminism and Transnational Social Policy

From Molyneux (2007):

p.18-19  “In recent years, female poverty, as distinct from the gender dimensions of poverty, has acquired considerably more policy attention. If during the period of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs in 80s-90s) women were the invisible army who bore the costs of the adjustment to ensure household survival, the New Poverty Agenda appeared to render women more visible. From the later 1980s, women’s poverty as well as their role in poverty relief programmes became increasingly evident to policy communities. Feminist advocacy and research into the gendered effects of adjustment played their part in securing this visibility: female poverty was a central theme of all the international women’s conferences and the Beijing Platform and Programme for Action (PFA) in 1995 called for it to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The PFA proposed a number of priorities for assistance: the targeting of female-headed households, greater participation of women in decision making at the community and other levels, and the extension of credit to low-income women were among them. The promotion of these ideas was also part of a broader effort by Latin American women’s organizations to incorporate a gender analysis into regional declarations and government policies.”

“The scale and momentum of women’s movement activism in the 1990s resulted in gender equality being given priority in all UN world conferences. It was also incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals, the third being “to promote gender equality and empowerment of women”. At the same time, female poverty came under the gaze of global public culture from the early 1970s through the diffusion of a pithy and polyvalent phrase, the “feminization of poverty”. Less persuasive where it was understood as signalling an ongoing trend (female poverty was growing), but effective as a way of underlining the point that poverty was a gendered experience, the “feminization of poverty” entered the policy lexicon in the 1980sand 1990s. For all its weaknesses, it signalled a widespread acceptance among donor groups and international development agencies that poverty and gender were strongly correlated. The “persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women” was one of the 12 critical areas of concern within the 1995 Global Platform for Action. That feminist advocacy and analysis had made their mark in this domain is illustrated by ...the OECD Guidelines on Poverty Reduction, which offers what is, in effect, a gender analysis of poverty.”

“The guidelines go on to cite gender as a major cause of poverty and impediment to development and acknowledge the need to mainstream gender even in areas such as national budgets that are traditionally gender blind. [p.19] The World Bank too, initially resistant to the gender critique of structural adjustment, began to show more interest in the poverty-gender link”.

“The World Bank’s annual World Development Reports (WDR) reflect the growing influence of feminist thinking on mainstream development discourse. “The WDR 2000/2001 notes...that eliminating legal discrimination is key to the empowerment of women.’ However [p72] ‘such evidence as does exist points to a significant gap between the proclaimed gender equality guidelines and the practice. This is not surprising considering that guidelines issued by development agencies such as the World Bank are simply advisory and there are no penalties for failing to comply.”

From Elson (2012)

p.179: “WDR 2006 presents gender inequality as an outcome of ‘traditional’ patriarchal societies in which women are denied property and inheritance rights, face restrictions on their freedom of movement and do not participate in paid work. Policies to increase women’s labour force participation are seen in WDR 2006 as the key to greater gender equality.”

“By contrast, WDR 2012 recognizes that women’s participation in labour markets is not a panacea, and it pays a lot of attention to the continuing unequal division of unpaid work. It refers to evidence that married women may not have control over their own earnings in a range of low- and middle-income countries, especially in lower-income households (WDR 2012: 82). It presents a wealth of data on gender earnings gaps and occupational segregation in high-income as well as in low- and middle-income countries. It shows that these cannot be explained by educational differences and argues that women are trapped in low-productivity activities by a combination of constraints stemming from the operation of markets, formal institutions, informal institutions and households, envisaged as a set of interlocking cogs which get stuck on certain settings, despite the forward momentum of economic growth pushing in the direction of gender inequality, and prevent women from enjoying equal economic opportunities. Some policy interventions are required to free the stuck cogs, represented visually by an oil can.”

“This mechanical (masculine?) metaphor is used throughout the report, and is a variant of modernization theory, in which the forward momentum of ‘progress’ gets stuck at certain points, but can be freed providing the right policies are introduced. There is no recognition that development is a profoundly uneven and disruptive process in which large numbers of people are dispossessed of all resources except their labour power, and wealth is concentrated in ever fewer hands. Nor is there recognition that while development tends to undermine and decompose some forms of gender inequality, it creates new forms of gender inequality that have elements of both the ‘old’ and the ‘modern’ systems of social relations. Thus many of the ‘modern’ occupations in which women are concentrated tend to be monetized forms of the occupations that women carry out unpaid in households and communities: growing food, cooking, making clothes, taking care of other people, serving other people. These occupations are socially constructed as lower-status, lower-skilled, lower-earning occupations.”

p.180: “The recommended policy interventions are mainly directed to making women more like men, from the perspective of employers, rather than changing the way that jobs are constructed and valued, so that, for example, care work is more highly valued and pays more and is undertaken equally by men and women. Thus the report recommends lifting constraints on women’s time through provision of (paid) childcare; investment in timesaving infrastructure; and overcoming information problems in labour markets, through measures that include affirmative action. It makes a brief mention of encouraging men to do more unpaid childcare through improved parental leave policies that apply to men as well as women. But much more attention is given to reducing the amount of unpaid care that women have to do, than to redistributing the remaining unpaid care equally between women and men. The report makes no mention of a re-evaluation of the skill content of jobs, so as to increase the pay and status of ‘women’s work’, a strategy that has been used in a number of high-income countries in sectors where there are trade unions.”

pp.181-182: “WDR 2012 concludes with a ‘Global Agenda for Gender Equality’, focused on closing gender gaps in education and health, promoting women’s access to economic opportunities, closing gender gaps in voice and agency, preventing the intergenerational reproduction of gender inequality and supporting evidence-based public action. These are all good objectives, and the policies advocated to achieve them are on the whole helpful; though the report is too optimistic about the beneficial effects for women of [p.182] access to a mobile phone, which is expected (among other things) to improve maternal health, increase access to economic opportunities and to justice, and facilitate knowledge sharing and learning about ‘what works’. Yet many of these policies (which are sectoral or micro-level) will not be implemented, or their beneficial effects will be undermined, because of macro-level policies (fiscal, monetary, investment and trade) which create economic instability, insecurity and inequality; and which promote profit-led consumerism, in which women are sexually objectified (often in the name of a spurious ‘empowerment’ – ‘because you are worth it’, as the cosmetics advertisements say). The report has nothing to say about these challenges, on which there is a substantial body of feminist research. Business corporations are seen mainly as potential allies, not as existing obstacles. The danger is that the useful, and to some extent valuable, aspects of WDR 2012 will be used as evidence that the Bank has significantly improved in its understanding of and policy towards gender equality. The report must not be allowed to become a fig leaf that obscures the ways in which Bank operations and policies are themselves obstacles to the achievement of gender equality.”

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