The state in developing countries occupies a pivotal position in welfare, redistribution, rebuilding and modernization. The ultimate aim of all these is supposed to be Social Development. This is believed to be made possible through a slew of Social Policies and Planning. Hence, we shall try to understand the theoretical perspectives underlying the concepts of Social Policy and Social Planning.
Rationale for Social Policy
Modern government is based on a social contract between citizens and the state in which rights and duties are agreed to by all to further the common interest. Citizens lend their support to a government through taxes and efforts to a country’s good; in return, governments acquire legitimacy by protecting the people’s rights and through public policies that benefit all. However, policy making is often captured by powerful groups and elites, making government policies biased and unaccountable to the majority of citizens. With half the world’s population living below the two-dollar –a day poverty line, ineffective social policies can be the spark for state breakdown.
Lack of opportunity, authoritarian rule, gross inequity, exclusion and deprivation – all increase the likelihood of a state’s de-legitimization and withdrawal of its citizens’ support, leading to social disintegration, conflict, and violence. Hence, there is a need to make growth and development truly ‘inclusive’ through social policies that ensure that the people in the margins of society are provided with the opportunities and support that ensures their participation and development.
Jayati Ghosh (2002) is of the opinion that, “the recognition that social policy is not just the outcome of simple welfare considerations, but rather a key instrument in the process of development, which works in association with economic policy as part of a broader strategy, is an important step towards working out mechanisms for its greater spread and effectiveness. However, in order to ground social policy more firmly within development strategy and work out the links between it and more straightforward macroeconomic policy, it is necessary to be aware of the political economy contexts within which both sets of policy are developed and evolve”.
It is noteworthy here that there has been a drastic change in social as well as social welfare policy of the Government of India after 1991 – the year in which the policy of liberalization, privatization and globalization has been adopted as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme.
Understanding Social Policy
Broadly speaking, the term ‘policy’ refers to the general guidelines or principles, which give direction to a particular course of action by the government or by an organization. It also refers to, in a very specific sense, an intended or executed course of action.
Definitions of Social Policy
An attempt to define social policy is beset with many practical difficulties. Is there one social policy with capital S and P or are there multiple social policies with small s and small p? This question is relevant because we have social policies compartmentalized into a policy for scheduled castes, a policy for backward classes, a policy for weaker sections, a policy for women, a policy for children and so on. Does an addition of these policies make up a “whole” social policy? We have Directive Principles of State Policy, the Fundamental Rights and the preamble to the constitution. Do these make up a social policy?
Social policy can be referred to both in the plural and singular case. When referred to in the plural, it denotes comprehensive and integrated set of policies in the social sectors such as health, social welfare, education, social security etc., when used in singular the term social policy refers to a specific governmental policy such as the policy towards the SCs and STs, the policy for providing universal education etc.
According to David Gill, “Social policies are principles/course of action designed to influence the overall quality of life in a society, the circumstances of living of individuals and groups in that society, and the nature of intra- societal relationships among individuals, groups and society as a whole.
According to Kulkarni “Social policy is the strategy of action indicating means and methods to be followed in successive phases to achieve the declared social objectives.”
Marshall states that the term, “Social policy refers to the policy of governments with regard to action having a direct impact on the welfare of citizens, by providing them with services or income.”
According to Prof. Titmuss, social policy represents a summation of acts of government, deliberately designed to improve the welfare of people.
While summarizing the discussion on definitions of Social Policies it can be said that social policy is a deliberate action on the part of individuals, collectivities and governments, undertaken to organize services, opportunities and social action so as to affect the life styles of people and initiate a process to prevent, postpone, initiate and manage change.
Characteristics of Social Policy
The following are some of the characteristic features of Social Policy:
i) Many writers on social policy including such well-known names like Titmuss, Donnison and Boulding have stressed that the distinguishing trait of social policy is its distributional or redistributive character. Thus the concern of social policy is with social and economic justice based on the principle of equality, which means that the redistribution of social resources should take place from the better off sections towards the worse off sections of society.
ii) The second characteristic of social policy is its concern with weaker and vulnerable sections of society such as poor, women, children, disabled, backward classes so as to bring them at par with the rest of society. Thus social policies visualize of an egalitarian society where inequalities are reduced to minimum level.
iii) Another characteristic of social policy is that social policies do not exist in isolation. These are determined to a large extent by the socio-political scenario of a nation, its economic viability and last but not the least, by socio-cultural ethos of people of the nation. Now after Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization policies have become global and changes in one corner of the world definitely leave impact over rest of the world. Most live example of this feature is the opening up of economy by most of third world countries in accordance with guidelines of World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Objectives of Social Policy
The following are some of the important objectives of Social Policy:
i) It is frequently stated that social policies aim to bring about social change. In the final analysis all social policies are government policies as stated by Marshall and Boulding. As part of the operation of the government, social policy cannot hope to introduce fundamental changes in society, which would mean undermining the status quo on which government
rests. Whether in the socialist countries or in the capitalist countries, the social policy cannot usher in the fundamental structural change. It can only achieve moderate social change, whereby certain undesirable conditions of a section or sections of society are redressed and as a result social tension is minimized.
ii) Pinker has argued that objective of social policy is minimization of sufferings and maximization of welfare.
iii) Another objective of social policy is improvement of quality of life of people. It is necessary to ask whose quality of life that we want to improve? This is a pertinent question in developing countries like India where majority of the population live in conditions of serious deprivation, without being able to get even the basic necessities for survival. They are said to be living in absolute poverty or below the poverty line. According to World Bank the estimates of poor population in the developing countries is 57%. It should be very clear that the limited resources of the developing countries cannot be utilized to improve the quality of life of all the population of these countries. It has been very well documented by several studies that the major beneficiaries of development planning in the Third World have been the numerically small fraction of the population. So the aim of social policy should be to redistribute social resources so that the quality of life of the top 20% of the population does not keep on improving at the cost of the provision of the basic necessities for the very survival of the 50 or 60% of the population. It is for this reason that Mahboob-ul-Haq has stated that the aim of development planning in Third World should be stated as the preservation of the very life itself and not as the improvement of the quality of life, which presumes that the basic survival needs have been met.
Thus, social policy means a framework within which or stated course by adopting which the state as protector and promoter of the interests of society as also of human rights of people wants to conduct its affairs so that the goal of welfare of all may be promoted by organizing a series of services in diverse fields of nutrition, water supply, education, health, housing, employment, recreation, etc.
The salient features of social policy are as follows: i) Social policy is the policy of state responsible for conducting the affairs of society; ii) It states the framework within which and course of action by adopting which affairs of society are to be conducted; iii) It relates to people in general and concerns itself with provision of social services which in their nature are direct and general; and iv) It aims at promoting human and social development.
A finer distinction has to be clearly understood here between social policy and social welfare policy. While social policy concerns itself with the provision of social services affecting the life and living of people in general, social welfare policy relates itself to organization of specially designed social welfare services for weaker and vulnerable sections of society to enable them to come at par with other sections. The scope of social policy is fairly wide. It includes within its ambit all such services which have a direct bearing on the modus operandi of people in a society and varied kinds of related matters which may have a bearing on such services.
As observed by Kulkarni (1987:94), “Modernization of society, implying adoption of science and technology, raising the national standard of living, building up civic and political institutions to suit the changed and changing needs and problems, and generally to work towards an open, pluralistic society of equal opportunity, could with all these elements be regarded as the pith and substance of social policy.”
Different Models of Social Policy
There are three major models of social policy: i) Residual Welfare Model, ii) Industrial Achievement Model, and iii) Institutional Redistributive Model.
Model A: Residual Welfare Model of Social Policy
This formulation is closely related with laissez-faire position. With concomitant social changes that have accompanied industrialization and urbanization, there emerged a grudging recognition that under rather exceptional circumstances, malfunctions of market or of the family, may necessitate some temporary supplement to social provisions. From the angle of policy, however, this approach perceives the family and the market as the only instruments for meeting human needs. There is emphasis on “means-testing” and “less eligibility”. Selectivity is inherent in such a policy-frame and only the poor who qualify means test are selected for benefits.
Model B: Industrial Achievement- Performance Model of Social Policy
This model incorporates a significant role for social welfare institutions. It holds that social needs should be met on the basis of merit, work performance and productivity. It is derived from various economic and psychological theories concerned with incentives, efforts and reward and the formation of class and group loyalties.
Model C: Institutional Redistributive Model of Social Policy
This envisages built-in institutional social provision to overcome the stresses of modern complex industrial-urban life. This model sees social welfare as a major integrated institution in society, providing Universalist services outside the market on the principle of need. It is basically a model incorporating systems of redistribution in command-over-resources-through-time.
Modern concept of social policy is inextricably bound with social justice. Mere equalization of opportunities in an inequalitarian socio-economic system reduces social justice just to absurdity. Thus in the modern concept of social policy, concepts of positive discrimination and equity find prominent place. India follows this model while envisaging social policies.
These three models are, of course, only very broad approximations to the theories and ideas of economists, philosophers, political scientists and sociologists. Many variants could be developed of a more sophisticated kind.
Independent India considered itself a welfare state. Hence, lot of welfare and community development programmes were designed and implemented over the years, especially through various five year plans and annual plans. The model for social policy adopted at the time was “Institutional Redistributive Model” based on the value of equality and social justice. However, after the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1991 as a result of the processes of Globalization, Privatization and Liberalization (LPG) the country has not been faithful to its welfarist agenda and has been practicing ‘Industrial Achievement- Performance Model of Social Policy’. As a result, the subsidy given to the farmers and the ‘freeships’ to the weaker sections have been replaced by ‘incentives’ and ‘performance-based subsides’.
Concept of Social Planning
Human development and improvement in quality of life are the ultimate objectives of all Social Planning. Right Social Planning is expected to take into account the resources required for human development and human resources available for carrying out the Plan.
Planning is the process of preparing a blueprint of actions to attain stated objectives within a time frame. The determination of objectives, the specifications of targets, the strategy for mobilization of resources, the allocation of outlays to different development sectors, the blueprint of actions (including their operationalisation in the shape of policies, programmes and their delivery system) are aspects which have to be considered in any planning exercise.
M. Webber defines planning as the process of making rational decisions about future goals and future course of action, which relies upon explicit tracing of repercussions and the value implications, associated with alternative courses of action and in turn requires explicit evaluation and choice among the alternative matching goal- action sets.
Alfred J. Kahn defines planning as ‘policy choice and programming in the light of facts, projections and application of values’.
Planning is essential because it enables us to formulate with some precision what we intend to achieve within a given time frame. Prioritization among various objectives enables us to demarcate the more important objectives from those, which are less so. Once this is done one can decide what is feasible considering the resources at hand and how additional resources can be mobilized. Therefore, planning is a more scientific path towards achieving development objectives, and for bringing about economic and social transformation in a systematic manner.
The Need for Social Planning in India
An underdeveloped economy like India is characterized by inequalities of incomes and ownership of assets. The high incidence of poverty, coupled with these inequalities, makes the task of development particularly important. There are also regional imbalances and problems connected with the development of areas, which are disadvantaged due to geographical and ecological factors (as for example drought-prone areas, flood-prone areas etc). Needless to say, planning in India has to be geared to meet these challenges.
Social policies are necessary because the benefits of economic growth do not automatically reach all. Inadequate social policies ultimately limit growth in the medium and long term. Social policies are justified not only from a humanitarian viewpoint; they are an economic and political need for future growth and political stability, minimally to maintain citizen support for their governments.
Specifically, the arguments for equitable development policies are:
i) Investing in people enhances the quality and productivity of the labour force, thus improving the investment climate and, hence, growth;
ii) Raising the incomes of the poor increases domestic demand and, in turn, encourages growth; greater consumption ratios among lower income groups contribute to expanding the domestic market;
iii) Highly unequal societies are associated with lower rates of growth;
iv) Among children, poverty and malnutrition damage health, reduce body weight and intelligence, resulting in lower productivity in adulthood, a high tax for a country to pay;
v) Investing in girls and women has numerous positive multiplier effects for social and economic development;
vi) Unequal societies are not only unjust but also cannot guarantee social and political stability in the long term, which is a barrier to economic growth;
vii) Gross inequities and their associated intense social tensions are more likely to result in violent conflict, ultimately destabilizing governments and regions, and may make people more susceptible to terrorist appeals and acts; and
viii) Not least, inequality is inconsistent with the United Nations Charter, the Millennium Declaration and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights according to which everybody is entitled to minimum standards of living (food, clothing, housing, education, medical care, social security and others).
People’s Participation in Social Planning
The people are expected to undertake initiatives of their own when they become conscientized and critically aware of their life situations and begin to perceive the options for changing that reality. This is the basic premise on which the facilitators worked. They first studied the local situation to assess the socio-economic profile of the people and their needs, the local resource base and its potential, existing social relations, the need for technological, financial and managerial inputs etc. and chalked out a strategy of sensitizing the people for self development. They assisted the people to reflect upon, analyze and understand their socio-economic environment, the factors that constrain development and access to public services. In the process of animation, alternative possibilities of dealing with the constraints are explored and their feasibility examined, using the local knowledge (internal inputs) as well as knowledge from outside (external inputs). Once sensitized, the facilitators provided the people with the necessary support mechanism like technical skill, credit, extension and other services by linking the local groups with the providers. More often than not, such development actions of the people started on a small scale, but the initial successes gave them the necessary confidence to embark upon larger and more sophisticated actions.
The essential ingredients of people’s participation for self development, as revealed in the success stories, are: assessment of local resources and local level planning, sensitizing people and building local organizations for collective actions and an umbrella support mechanism to facilitate people’s development actions. If these processes and mechanisms are to be multiplied on a wider scale, these will have to be institutionalized. The multiplication process requires a major political commitment by the State to provide the necessary political space and a policy framework for a sensitive support mechanism. This will call for, among other things, simplification of ground rules that would facilitate participation of grassroots level organizations in the development process, bringing about flexibility and dynamism among the providers of public services, and orienting the judicial system for speedy disposal of disputes and to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged.
It is common knowledge that delivery of services and upkeep of equipment suffer due to inadequate financial authority of the grassroots level functionaries and also due to the rigidities in the operational rules and audit systems. This often leads to helplessness and inaction on the part of the functionaries. In the case of voluntary organizations, for example, procedures require the filling up of a multiplicity of forms, adherence to complex accounting/audit systems, and multi-level and repetitive examination of files. All these cause delay in the release of funds and affect their functioning. That such sub-optimal functioning of the delivery system has a very high ‘opportunity cost’ must be appreciated and reforms of outmoded rules and procedures must be undertaken in the context of decentralized planning and implementation.
Critique of Social Policy and Planning in India
Jayati Ghosh (2002) opines that social policy in India, while achieving some limited successes in terms of management of the contradictions and instabilities emerging from the development process, has nevertheless been inadequate in terms of the basic functions such as health, education, and other goods and services required to lead a dignified life. Furthermore, Chandrashekar and Jayati Ghosh (2002) argue that, the recent changes in social policy and public intervention that have been associated in India with the ‘globalization’ phase of neoliberal economic reform, may have actually undermined some of the gains that were achieved earlier. This is because, in their opinion, recent macroeconomic tendencies have been associated with greater inequality and fragility of incomes, which has in turn certain important social implications. This goes on to prove the need for sensitive and proactive social policy in order to ensure provision and maintenance of at least basic amenities and services for all the citizens.
Most social policy provisioning has not been universal in terms of actual effects, even when it has been declared as such. Rather, it has been directed to specific (and restricted) target groups. And almost always, these groups included those with sufficient political voice, such as urban organized workers, or increasingly in the 1990s, particular caste groupings. There have also been much trumpeted attempts to include (in however limited a fashion) a small proportion of those who naturally appear to be .deserving., such as households under the poverty line, women from lower income groups, and so on. However, because such provisioning, whether in terms of protective legislation or in terms of actual resource transfers, has been extremely limited relative to the scale of requirement, it has meant that social policy has not been a basic instrument of development strategy in the manner outlined in the previous section. Rather, it has emerged essentially in the form of ad hoc responses to particular demands emanating from groups that (at least temporarily) have acquired some degree of political voice.
Nevertheless, it is also true that the overall development strategy, however flawed it was in terms of low social development and lack of fulfillment of basic needs, did at least meet some of the functions of social policy mentioned above. Thus, in very broad terms, the management of at least some of the social effects of modernization was achieved in that the most destabilizing effects were avoided. Similarly, the legitimization of and indeed the social acceptance of the suppression of current consumption on the part of workers and peasants, was also achieved; however, as pointed out above, the same was not true of the capitalist class and the elites who were unwilling to accept the economic discipline necessary for a sustained path of aggregate development. It is also true that the growing size of the public sector served as a cushion against very sharp fluctuations in aggregate economic activity. However, in a longer term sense the economic regime and associated social policy failed miserably in raising aggregate social labour productivity and reducing the employment slack in the system, or in underwriting labour costs for employers, including exporters.
The more significant forms of social policy in the Indian context have included agrarian reform; food procurement and distribution; education; employment creation through public works; affirmative action in the form of reservation for public services employment and educational institutions; antipoverty programmes directed towards small asset creation or micro credit; changes in forms and structures of governance through decentralization and some devolution of resources (Isaac & Richard, 2000).
We have looked at different dimensions of the concepts of Social Policy and Social Planning required.
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