Concept of Welfare States

Concept of Welfare States


  1. Introduction
  2. History of Welfare States
  3. Classification of Welfare States
  4. What makes State, a Welfare State?
  5. Welfare Regimes
  6. Welfare Regime in India
  7. Welfare State Administration, Problems?


As a word, "social policy" refers to measures used to enhance the welfare of individuals, particularly those who experience different types of disadvantage. And a welfare state is a social structure in which it is the responsibility of the state to provide for the needs of its citizens. What is required to be referred to as a welfare state, however, is still up for discussion. In this session, we will examine the Welfare State idea and its components.

History of Welfare States

The development of welfare states is a result of the growing significance of social welfare in our culture. The phrase "social welfare" can be derived from the idea of "individual welfare" and refers to the collective well-being of a group of people or an entire country.

Social assistance is now accessible to many people through a variety of channels, including families, the market, and the government. The family is the primary care-giving social structure, followed by the market, where people or a community struggle to protect their interests, and finally, in situations when neither the family nor the market are able to protect the well-being of the society, the state steps in. Therefore, welfare is a byproduct of all three channels, namely, family, market, and state, and is sometimes referred to as welfare's mixed economy.

The idea of a welfare state came forth as a result of the state's increasing need to offer welfare. And by welfare, they mean the minimal requirements for health, housing, income, and education that citizens cannot fall below in the interest of the country. As a result, the Welfare State was essentially viewed as a Social Safety Net. Since the idea of welfare has always been a crucial part of social institutions, it is conceptually impossible to depict the history of welfare states as a series of connected events. However, many contend that the causes for its origin frequently provide conflicting results depending on whether it was a result of industrialization or political rivalry.

The majority of historians prioritise industrialization over political rivalry. One of the main forces driving urbanisation and industrial societies, industrialization also created a necessity for the State to intervene and address people's social concerns. In his report, Beveridge emphasised the Five Giant Social Evils—ignorance, sickness, inactivity, filth, and want—that had damaged the British society prior to World War II. Others contend that state welfare was crafted by the political representatives of various interest groups, such as the worker class, ethnic minorities, women, and people with disabilities. Baldock further added that the state has the responsibility, as the figurehead of all its citizens, to ensure that British society is free from these five enormous social evils.

Therefore, the political party in power and the interests they represented impacted the character and scope of welfare states in many different nations.

Classification of Welfare States

Researchers have categorised welfare states based on the beliefs that drive them, how they present themselves, and how they are financed to provide social advantages to the general public.

When selecting which welfare state is more just or which one is more likely to endure in the face of a dynamic, ever-changing global economy, heterogeneity across welfare states—which comes from different schools of thought—has long been a source of controversy. Neo-liberal, Social Democratic, and Corporatist welfare states are the three categories into which Gosta Esping Andersen has classified the welfare states in his book The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism for the sake of clarity. (1990; Esping-Anderson)

Three main ideas that describe the political economics of welfare states are highlighted by Gosta Esping Andersen. The Systematic/Structuralist Theory is the first, and it emphasises the need for a welfare state as an unavoidable need. Due to reasons like modernization, mobility, individualism, and market dependency, industrialization gradually eliminates the pre-industrial way of social safety nets like family, church, guild solidarity, and similar. Additionally, because the market primarily serves those who work there, it is unable to meet the social demands of the general populace. As a result, a welfare state is necessary to ensure that everyone is taken care of.

 The second institutional approach hypothesis promotes a free market system and focuses on protecting the market from political interference. This liberal-promoted thesis contends that democracy can endanger markets and pave the way for Socialism. They contend that since democracy is governed by majoritarian demands, pressure on public spending will increase if both workers and capitalists want to make up for market weakness. Additionally, it draws attention to the problems with voter turnout, which are inherent in party politics and democracy. However, it is well recognised that Welfare States thrive when a nation's democratic rights are expanded and upheld. 

The Class Mobilization Thesis, the third strategy, views social classes as a key driver of change. It emphasises that distributional results are determined by the balance of class power. The view that Parliament is a crucial institution for transforming class mobilisation into desired social reforms and policies is also supported by this. This idea contends that by providing wage earners with vital power resources, welfare strengthens the labour movements in addition to purging society of social ills. The crucial prerequisite for this theory's realisation is power mobilisation, which depends on a variety of factors like electoral unanimity, the maturation of trade union organisations, and the proportionate majority of labor/left parties in the legislature. On the basis of the class mobilisation theory's use of a linear power structure, there are also inherent conflicts in this school of thought. Given the quickly changing nature of the labour market and the ongoing transformation in people's social needs in every country, focusing solely on the traditional working class to maintain the mobilisation may amount to wishful thinking that is impossible to realise.

What makes State, a Welfare State?

We reviewed several political economics theories that influence how the Welfare State is conceived in the preceding section, but it's possible that our method of simply relating the amount of social spending to the State's commitment to delivering welfare is wrong.

Comparative studies, analyses of countries based on indicators of industrialization like urbanisation, rate of economic growth, or analyses of countries based on the sophistication of left-parties or degree of working-class mobilisation may not be able to fully support the conclusion that a country is a welfare state. Again, there are several factors to consider when determining whether a state qualifies as a welfare state. One criterion, for instance, is that the bulk of a state's expenditures go toward addressing social welfare requirements. However, this justification could cause the majority of countries to remain Non-Welfare States up to the 1970s. The second method is to define a welfare state in terms of institutional or residual welfareism. While institutional welfarism proposes that the entire population should be taken care of and that welfare policies should be universalistic and institutionalised, residual welfarism holds that the State must provide welfare when other mechanisms of welfarism, such as the family or the market, fail. This goes beyond the conventional spending standards and focuses on the scope and content of social programmes, including things like eligibility and the form of benefits.

The linear criteria for ranking welfare states will be destroyed by this method, which also allows for a comparative comparison of different welfare state types. The third strategy encourages the choice of theoretical criteria to categorise various welfare levels. To rate the programmes and the welfare quotient in its state policies, this may be done by comparing a real welfare state to different current abstract welfare models. This strategy lacks historical context, which makes it vulnerable to the shortcomings of the characteristics or ideals that our historical figures supported in their fight for a welfare state.

Welfare Regimes

Esping-Andersen categorizes Welfare States into three main categories.
  1. Liberal Welfare State 
  2. Corporatist Welfare State 
  3. Social Democratic Welfare State

Liberal Welfare State

These welfare states are divided into three groups based on their limited social insurance, means-tested benefits, and universal transfer models. Benefits that are subject to a person's income and assets are known as means-tested benefits. People who fall into the categories of low-income households, working-class individuals, or state dependents typically qualify for these benefits. According to this model, "limits of welfare equal the marginal propensity to choose assistance instead of labour," hence there are highly strict eligibility or entitlement requirements, limited payments, and social stigma associated with receiving these benefits. In these jurisdictions, the government supports the market by offering the barest necessities or by funding privately managed social programmes. The United States, Canada, and Australia are the principal nations that use this welfare state model.

Corporatist/Conservative Welfare State.

The social structure of class and status is maintained by this welfare state through upholding status differences in terms of rights. They aim to push the market out of the territory controlled by the welfare state rather than encouraging the market to take on the function of welfare provider.
The Corporativist Welfare is committed to maintaining traditional family structure and traditions and is primarily formed by the authority of the Church. Social insurance often excludes women under this form of support system, whereas social assistance encourages parenthood. Strategies encourage the idea that the State won't step in until the family's ability to provide for assistance has fully run out. The classic example is German unemployment assistance, where the transition to regular unemployment benefits only occurs once it has been established that the family's ability to support the unemployed has been used up. Germany, Austria, and France are the principal nations that adhere to this rule.

Social Democratic Welfare States

These welfare states are literally governed by social democratic principles and are in charge of ensuring equality of the highest standards. This state advocates for extremely decommoditizing, universalist policies that nonetheless cater to diverse demands. To ensure that all people enjoy the same social rights while benefits are distributed in accordance with one's income, the dualism between the State and the Market or between the Middle Class and the Working Class is basically minimised. The beneficiaries of this model are also encouraged to support it with a strong sense of solidarity. As a result, there is a huge fusion of labour and welfare, or a welfare state that strives for full employment since it is the only way people can maintain this welfare state, where more people work and considerably fewer rely on social transfers. Sweden and Norway are the greatest examples of nations using this approach.

These three sets of welfare regimes have major differences in method and vision, yet none of them is present in its most complete form. For instance, the liberal government in the US still enacts a social security programme that is both universal and redistributive, while social democratic governments in Scandinavia combine elements of both liberalism and socialism. As a result, the market, the family, and the state can all be considered key contributors to the definition or classification of the welfare regime. (2012) Peter Alcock

Welfare Regime in India

Following its independence, India as a nation faced several societal issues and difficulties. With the most diversified culture and a history of social and economic inequality, it was a newly independent nation. Numerous marginalised groups in society were not only harmed by the British Raj but also by the historical heritage of prejudiced social structures that existed in India before the East India Company. In order to assure that our society's independence from colonialism and from earlier forms of social and economic oppression, the constitution's authors had a difficult task ahead of them. India therefore became a welfare state, only to be referred to in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution as a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic." Therefore, via the protection of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles for State Policy, our constitution provides for the protection of both our social and economic wellbeing. Every person of this nation is guaranteed both basic rights and civic liberties thanks to the fundamental rights. In addition to protecting these civil freedoms, the Indian Constitution also cares for the socioeconomic advancement of its citizens, and as a result, these rights are protected by Directive Principles for State Policy. These serve as the driving principles for both state and federal governments when creating public policies and defending citizens' social and economic rights. According to these ideas, States must develop policies to guarantee:

  1. That the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood; 
  2.  That the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub serve the common good; 
  3. That the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.
  4. That there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women; 
  5. That the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited by their age or strength; and 
  6. Those children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral abandonment
The constituent assembly included the following rights in the Directive Principles to defend the people's social and economic rights:
  • Right to adequate means of livelihood: article 39(a); 
  • Right against economic exploitation: article 39(b); 
  •  Right of both sexes to equal pay for equal work: article 39 (d); 
  •  Right to work; 
  • Right to leisure and rest: article 43; 
  • vi. Right to public assistance in case of unemployment, old age or sickness: article 42; 
  • Right to education: article 41; 
  •  Right to just and humane conditions of work: article 42; 
  •  Right to maternity relief: article 42; and x. Right to compulsory and free education of children: article 45.[19]
Indian government has been developing welfare programs and policies around these rights and provisions in the Indian Constitution. Welfare Programs such as Right To Education, MGNREGA, National Health Mission and alike have been aimed to provide economic and social welfare to its people and mitigate vulnerabilities and marginalization, faced by the citizens of the country.(Ojha, 2011)

Welfare State Administration, Problems?

The idea of a welfare state is broad and encompasses a range of political, social, and economic viewpoints. In the previous sections, we saw how different classifications of the welfare state don't hold in their purest form, but are instead always a blend of ideologies, with one ideology taking centre stage. Aside from this, the majority of countries struggle with extremely fundamental concerns relating to the management of the welfare state.

Every country struggles to decide which options to include in its policy-mix while creating its welfare policies. These options are as follows:
  • Decidingthe required level of welfare provisions for the people in the country. 
  • To ensure that the welfare provisions designed should be able to address the well-being of individuals and family alongside promoting productive working conditions. 
  • Guarantee efficiency in the operation of state monopolies and bureaucracies 
  • The sustainable provision of resources to fund the welfare programs over and above the direct contribution from the beneficiaries
Every country faces these fundamental problems while developing social programmes for its population. The welfare state must make sure that various sectional vulnerabilities, such as gender, caste, or religion, get addressed while crafting universal policies in addition to ensuring the wellbeing and empowerment of its residents.


  •  Baldock, J. (n.d.). Social Policy, Social Welfare, and the Welfare State. 
  • Esping-Anderson, G. (1990). The Three Political Economies of Welfare State. International Journal of Sociology, pp 92-123. 
  • Ojha, S. (2011). Concept of Welfare State and Its Relevance in Indian Scenario. Retrieved from Legal Services India: 
  • Pete Alcock, M. M. (2012). The Student's Companion to Social Policy. UK: Blackwell Publishers


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