Welfare State Regimes and Australian Social Policy

The concept of welfare state regimes is used to refer to the state’s expenditure on health, education, and personal social services. The income maintenance programs such as pensions, unemployment, insurance, and social assistance are also catered for in these programs. These programs’ main aim is to lessen the impact of market forces on individuals and to reflect social rights to certain minimum standards.

The development of welfare states regimes in all places is seen as a process of transition from an era where access to resources, services, and benefits was seen on the basis of an individual’s class or position to an era where access to these resources viewed on the basis of citizenship rights. This is because citizenship rights are central to the very emergence of welfare states. Citizenship listed here is not only about rights but also brings about participation and obligations to the individual. (Kennett 182).

Over history, different types of welfare states have developed and came into existence. The development of these states followed different political choices that were used to address the problems of production and distribution of resources within a country. The main focus was to ensure that everyone benefited from the existence of resources in their country. As a result, different social rights were developed that covered different scopes, from health provision to employment opportunities being availed to everyone. The most important of all was education since it was the power that would drive people into employment as such educational opportunities were the central rights to individuals or citizens of a given country.

Different scholars have identified different models that the welfare states have followed over history. According to Richard Titmuss (1985), three main models of welfare states can be identified, which include industrial achievement, performance, and institutional distributive. He says that these models exist simultaneously. The main distinguishing factor between the different models is not the level of economic development but the ideology followed in making the policy choices (Kennett 183). As a result of these ideological principles followed clusters of more or less distinct states in terms of level and quality of social rights and social stratification come up.

Another scholar Esping Anderson (1995), came up with three welfare regimes which he exemplified by the nations of the world. These regimes were liberal welfare as seen in Britain, Ireland, Australia, Canada, United States, and New Zealand. It is in this regime that Australia falls into. The others were the social democratic regimes as found in the Scandinavian countries, while the last one is the conservative based regime as exemplified in France, Germany, and Italy. The social democratic welfare regime is characterized by universalism, comprehensive risk coverage, generous benefit levels, and egalitarianism. Such a state had a strong role in integrating social and economic policies and also emphasized full employment. In the provision of social services, privilege is given to the care of young children and the aged.

The Liberal welfare state is one where strong emphasis is on the income and heavy reliance of the market for the provision of services. The institutionalized approach to social policy is followed with the state considering only a few risks as social, and as such, it only accords low levels of assistance to the family. The conservative welfare state is a regime links social rights to class and the individual’s status. The unique characteristic of this regime is that it has a strong commitment to the maintenance of the traditional family. The state only comes in to help in the situations when the family’s ability to cope is exhausted.

Having looked at the different welfare state regimes, it is important to highlight the major variations which are seen between the regimes. Mostly these differences exist on the dependence on the labor market, organization of services to contribute to social stratification, and on the primacy accorded to the state, market, and family.

On the issue of political influences of the Australian social policy, it is important to note, as at the beginning that Australia is a federation in which politics take place within a federation of parliamentary democracy. Over history, the country developed a number of initiatives, most of which formed the basis of a welfare state. As the federation began in 1901, the welfare system was constructed around the family. In this initial system, the male worker was responsible for supporting the family, and as such, the wages were set high so as to ensure that the welfare of all the family members was catered for.

This was achieved through high minimum wages for the working males. Other initiatives were developed to include other areas like health, education, social services, social security, and care for the disabled. These were achieved through the federal government taking up roles and responsibilities of fostering social rights, welfare rights, and industrial rights. It was in line with these new roles that the government introduced a universal health care system to cater to all people and also care for single mothers.

These moves and initiatives can be seen as political influences that were motivated by the government and ended up making Australia a more liberal welfare state with some aspects of social democracy. Political influences came in handy when the federal government stipulated the issues it could handle when it delegated the others to the states government. It came to handle and address issues of broad-scale importance and provision of funds to the state government to administer the programs it set.

It was the role of the federal government to set up the overall policy arrangements for housing, education, health, and other social welfare policies. In addition, it took full control of issues like income, security system, payment of pensions and allowances, delivery of employment services for the disabled and the unemployed(Chenoweth 2005).

Since welfare has much to do as regards social policy, it focuses on and is affected by politics a great deal. It looks at the impact of political economy and social infrastructure on a day to day lives of the different groups of people in society. This determines how the acquired resources are distributed and allocated to the different societies and regions. At this point of allocating resources, the politics of a country come into play to determine which areas get which share of the resources.

The nature of the government and the powers it has been tested. This is because if the government executive is powerful, it can push for policies that need many resources. In a country like Australia, which is dual party-state de facto, the two parties have to agree on the mode of allocation of resources, mostly through dialog. The party that enjoys more support becomes the one that determines policies to be followed.

The most astonishing part of the implementation of policies is that the decisions made do not affect the people in the same way, and therefore when it comes to the judgment of the impacts, all the people will not respond to having the same benefits. However, other factors come into play. In cases where we have well-organized groups intervening in the public policy-making process, like in Australia, they are always consulted on the way forward or the impacts the implemented policies have on the general public.

Such organized groups include trade unions and organizations of employers who participate in any reforms that are initiated by the government. It is important to remember that such groups could be politically motivated at times. This will ultimately affect the decisions they make. If they are not politically motivated, they take stands that will only favor them when they resist those that will work towards their advantages. It is at times when the government involves them in order for it not to be seen to be responsible for the negative consequences that follow policies that may lead to a reduction of social benefits (Christelle 2004).

However the proceeding of the argument may be, one thing that is certain is that political influences in Australia have contributed much to the development of social policies, which in turn have altered the way the Australians live and how they compare with other countries in the world(Castles 2007).

Works cited

Castles,F.G. and Uhr, J. The Australian Welfare State: Has Federalism Made a Difference?. Australian Journal of Politics and History.53(2007): 96-117.

Cochrane,A.,John Clarke and Sharon Gewirtz. Comparing Welfare States. London: Sage Publishers.

Chenoweth, Lesley. Redefining Welfare: Australian Social Policy and Practice. 2008. Web.

Esping Anderson.G. The three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. 2008. Web.

Hillmer, Steffen. Welfare state regimes and life-course patterns: An Introduction. Web.

Kennett, Patricia. Handbook of comparative social policy. New York: Edward Elgar Publishers, 2002.

Pierson,P. The Politics of Welfare State, World Politics.48 (1996) 143-179.