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Building Dignity?

Tracing Rights, Discretion, and Negotiation within a Norwegian Labor Activation Program

Erika Gubrium, Leah Johnstone, and Ivar Lødemel

delivery practices and experiences within a Norwegian labor activation program for social assistance. We take into account the understandings of key stakeholders within a national labor activation program: welfare office leaders, caseworkers, and program

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Writing for different audiences

Social workers, irregular migrants and fragmented statehood in Belgian welfare bureaucracies

Sophie Andreetta

In Belgium, depending on their immigration status, foreigners may be entitled to different forms of social assistance, ranging from emergency medical care to financial benefits. In a context where residence permits are constantly updated, re-examined or withdrawn by the administration, this article explores the ways in which welfare bureaucrats deal with irregular migrants. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at welfare offices in French-speaking Belgium, this article shows that documentary practices in welfare bureaucracies have the effect of both restricting access to social assistance and aiding irregular migrants in bringing cases against the administration. This article thus also delves into the double-edged relationship of the social workers to the state by focusing on the competing norms and interpretations of law they encounter on a daily basis.

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Facing bureaucratic uncertainty in the Bolsa Família Program

Clientelism beyond reciprocity and economic rationality

Flávio Eiró and Martijn Koster

Clientelism is often analyzed along lines of moral values and reciprocity or an economic rationality. This article, instead, moves beyond this dichotomy and shows how both frameworks coexist and become entwined. Based on ethnographic research in a city in the Brazilian Northeast, it analyzes how the anti-poverty Bolsa Família Program and its bureaucracy are entangled with electoral politics and clientelism. We show how the program’s beneficiaries engage in clientelist relationships and exchanges to deal with structural precariousness and bureaucratic uncertainty. Contributing to understanding the complexity of clientelism, our analysis demonstrates how they, in their assessment of and dealing with political candidates, employ the frames of reference of both reciprocity and economic rationality in such a way that they act as a “counterpoint” to each other.

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Poverty and Shame

Interactional Impacts on Claimants of Chinese Dibao

Jian Chen and Lichao Yang

The minimum living standard guarantee known as dibao in Chinese, is the most important institutional arrangement of social assistance in China’s social security system. According to state statistical data, by 2014, more than 70.84 million people

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Constructing 'unteachability' through menacing warnings

The coupling of welfare benefits and migration control in Switzerland

Luca Pfirter

This article scrutinises case files concerning the revocation of stay permits in Switzerland due to the receipt of social assistance. Through in-depth exploration of case files and Federal Supreme Court judgements, it provides insights into the increasing coupling of migration control and welfare instruments. The article does so by investigating one specific type of paperwork: ‘menaces of warnings of the revocation order due to the dependency on social assistance’. The article argues bureaucratic practices and the paperwork they produce must be investigated for their effects on foreign nationals and for the (re)production of politics of belonging and the ‘anti-citizen’. By individualising the reason for receiving social assistance, the analysed paperwork simultaneously aims at disciplining recipients of social assistance and legitimises exclusion by constructing ‘unteachability’ through ‘unsuccessful’ self-disciplining.

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Matteo Jessoula

On 24 July 2009, in reaction to a ruling by the European Court of

Justice regarding the different retirement ages for men and women

in the public employment sector, the Italian government introduced

further “subtractive” (or consolidating) reforms to the pension sector

(after the series of measures that were adopted starting in 1992), in

order to equilibrate the conditions of access to retirement between

the two sexes. At the same time, the saving in expenditure obtained

through pension reform was directed to the social assistance sector,

traditionally atrophied in Italy and even today very undeveloped in

comparative perspective. This is of particular interest in light of the

noteworthy, and anomalous, imbalance of the Italian welfare state to

the benefit of the retirement system for the protection of the el

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The Rise of the "Global Social"

Origins and Transformations of Social Rights under UN Human Rights Law

Ulrike Davy

The article explores how national social policy ideas and UN-sponsored international social rights interrelate, historically and recently. Based on UN documents of the 1940s and 1950s, the article argues that UN-sponsored social rights – the "global social" – originally did not primarily reflect welfare statism (as taken for granted today), but drew on competing ideas (liberal welfare statism, developmental thinking, socialism). Based on an analysis of the state reports under the Social Covenant from 1977 to 2011, the article also argues that the states' reading of the UN social rights became more homogeneous over time. Only from the 1990s did essentials of welfare statism spread globally. This recent reading of the "global social" focuses on poverty and basic rights, such as the right to food and housing, with instruments like social assistance and measures enabling access to health services, education and land. The article draws on a global database of UN documents created by the author.

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Regional social integration and free movement across borders

The role of social policy in enabling and preventing access to social entitlements by cross-border movers. European Union and Southern Africa compared

Bob Deacon and Sonia Nita

English abstract: Social policies are central to regional social integration. This article addresses this with the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It considers the part that access to social security, social assistance, health and education services play in facilitating free movement within regions. The article shows that in the EU the formal reality of free movement is substantially curtailed by problems with the portability of and access to social benefits. In SADC migrants' access to social protection and social services show remarkable similarity to the EU. Access to social assistance is missing in both regions for some movers. Given the symbolic nature of the “no recourse to public funds for migrants“ mantra of national social policies in both regions the article concludes that a policy and funding response at the regional or even global level is required if regional social integration is to be enhanced through social policy.

Spanish abstract: Las políticas sociales son fundamentales para la integración social regional. Este artículo aborda este precepto en la Unión Europea (UE) y la Comunidad de Desarrollo de África Austral (SADC), considerando que los servicios de acceso a la seguridad social, a la asistencia social, a la salud y a la educación juegan un papel en la facilitación de la libre circulación entre regiones. El documento muestra que en la UE la realidad formal de la libre circulación se ve sustancialmente reducida por problemas con la portabilidad y el acceso a las prestaciones sociales. En la SADC el acceso de los migrantes a la protección social y a los servicios sociales muestra una marcada similitud con la UE. En ambas regiones, el acceso a la asistencia social no existe para algunos sujetos. Dado el carácter simbólico del mantra de las políticas sociales nacionales en ambas regiones de "no recurrir a los fondos públicos para los migrantes", el trabajo concluye que se requiere una respuesta política y definanciación a nivel regional, o incluso mundial, si se pretende mejorar la integración social regional a través de la política social.

French abstract: Les politiques sociales se situent actuellement au cœur de l'intégration sociale régionale. Ce document aborde ce e question dans le cas de l'Union européenne (UE) et de la Communauté de développement d'Afrique australe (SADC). Il considère le fait que, l'accès à la sécurité sociale, aux services sociaux, à la santé et à l'éducation participe de manière effective à la libre circulation des personnes au sein des régions. Le document montre que dans l'UE, la réalité formelle de la libre circulation est considérablement restreinte par des problèmes liés à l'adaptation et à l'accès aux prestations sociales. L'accès des migrants à la protection sociale et aux services sociaux au sein du SADC montre des similitudes remarquables avec l'UE. L'accès à l'aide sociale est absent dans les deux régions pour certains transfrontaliers. Compte tenu de la nature symbolique du «non recours aux fonds publics pour les migrants" appliqué dans les politiques sociales nationales de ces deux régions, cet article conclut qu'une politique et une réponse financière élaborée au niveau régional ou même mondial sont nécessaires si l'on souhaite que l'intégration régionale sociale soit renforcée par la politique sociale.

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Antipoverty Measures

The Potential for Shaming and Dignity Building through Delivery Interactions

Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery

recipients of social assistance. In each case, we engaged with stakeholders via in-depth interviews with measure users and providers (street level bureaucrats, caseworkers, midlevel managers), and in most cases, we conducted observations of delivery

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Assisted “voluntary” return of women to Kosovo

Rhetoric and reality within the framework of development

Sandra Sacchetti

, access to public financial support is very restricted due to eligibility criteria under which only household units having no property or any sources of income (including remittances sent from abroad) qualify for social assistance. As a result, despite the