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Local disparities in paths through social assistance in Belgium Sarah Carpentier Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy Antwerp University Aspen-Etui.

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Presentation on theme: "Local disparities in paths through social assistance in Belgium Sarah Carpentier Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy Antwerp University Aspen-Etui."— Presentation transcript:

1 Local disparities in paths through social assistance in Belgium Sarah Carpentier Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy Antwerp University Aspen-Etui Conference 2009 Brno (20-21 March)

2 2 1.Background 2.Characteristics of the Belgian social assistance scheme 3.Towards an individualised work based social assistance scheme 4.Geographical disparities in the incidence of social assistance claimants 5.Evidence on the duration of the first spell 6.Explanatory mechanisms for local variation in time on welfare 7.Conclusion Outline

3 3 Transition to an active welfare state is well documented But local variation is largely uncharted territory (Finn, 2000; Meyers, 1998) Yet, pertinent for legal security and equal access to social rights (Cox, 1998) Literature on social assistance dynamics -Covers mainly the dependency versus heterogeneity hypotheses -Institutional impact and contextual effects are rarely documented (except ESOPO-project) 1.Background

4 4 Low percentage of social assistance claimants (0.8% of adult population in 2004) due to -Corporatist welfare regime (Esping-Andersen, 1990) -Existing social security schemes school leavers: flat-rate unemployment benefit unemployment benefit in principle unlimited in time 2. Characteristics of the Belgian social assistance scheme

5 5 Decentralised organisation (since 1974) -National statutory framework -Local welfare agencies (OCMW’s/CPAS) = Autonomous organisations under public law governed by politically appointed councils Administer federal law with broad autonomy & margin of appreciation Task to take supplementary initiatives according to own insight & to local needs to ensure human dignity Devolution 2. Characteristics of the Belgian social assistance scheme

6 6 Entitlement is conditioned on a family- based means test Entitlement is unlimited in time Administratively, subject for revision after one year To international standards Belgium has a low benefit level (Van Mechelen & De Maesschalck, 2009) and supplementary benefits are fully subject to local discretion 2. Characteristics of the Belgian social assistance scheme

7 7 Spring Programme (2000) aims at increased labour market integration by -Enhanced subsidy for employment programmes -Diversification of general & specific social employment programmes 3. Towards an individualised work based social assistance scheme

8 8 Social Integration Act (2002) =Introduction of work based & individualised social assistance scheme -Explicit aim of societal integration and self- sufficiency through labour market integration -Strict interpretation of availability for work -Focus on rights and duties -Strengthening of tailor-made approach -Reinforcement of recipients as active participants 3. Towards an individualised work based social assistance scheme

9 9 Implementation of Social Integration Act (2002) -Generalisation of personal social integration contract -No methodologies to assess availability for work and exemption from availability for work -No instruments to allocate recipients to training and employment programmes -Crucial notions are not (clearly) defined Enhanced local discretionary power 3. Towards an individualised work based social assistance scheme

10 4. Geographical disparities in percentage of adults claiming social assistance (2004)

11 Source: Data Warehouse Labour Market & Social Security, 2004, own calculations N (municipalities) % Region Brussels region193.1 Flemish region Walloon region Number of inhabitants ≤ 9999 inhabitants – inhabitants – inhabitants – inhabitants272.1 ≥ inhabitants82.8 Minimum for Belgium0.0 Maximum for Belgium7.9 Mean percentage of adults claiming social assistance by groups of municipalities

12 N (municipalities) Mean % of adults Socio-economic clusters in Brussels Living municipalities101.8 Urbanized central municipalities94.7 Socio-economic clusters in Flanders Living municipalities830.3 Rural municipalities970.2 With a concentration of economic activity400.2 Semi urban municipalities420.4 Centre municipalities380.7 Tourist municipalities80.6 Socio-economic clusters in Wallonia Living municipalities770.6 Rural municipalities680.7 With a concentration of economic activity391.0 Semi urban municipalities251.4 Centre municipalities531.4

13 13 Data -Administrative records from the Data Warehouse Labour Market and Social Security -Advances on social security benefits are excluded -1/3 proportionally stratified sample of 2004 cohort entrants (N=14503) aged between 18 and 65 -Observation window of 36 months, monthly recorded data 5. Evidence on the duration of the first spell

14 14 Methodology -Event history analysis in a continuous time framework -No time-varying covariates Municipality characteristics at entry time Study of the duration of the first spell -Unspecified exit -Breaks of maximum 2 months are allowed -(Complementary) participation in a social employment programme is considered as an exit 5. Evidence on the duration of the first spell

15 15 An exit is not necessarily a meaningful improvement of the living standard (Kazepov,1999; Hansen, 2008) Exit covers several realities: -Participation in labour market programme -Regular employment -Entitlement to social security benefit or other social assistance benefit -Change in household composition or labour market situation (no longer entitled) -Administrative sanction -Suspension due to stay in foreign country or admission in institution covered by the state 5. Evidence on the duration of the first spell

16 16 Duration of first spell may be highly misleading (due to cycling) A short time on social assistance is not necessarily an indication of a good welfare policy (Kazepov, 1999; Saraceno, 2002) 5. Evidence on the duration of the first spell

17 Huge local variation in median duration & a high turnover to international standards Belgium (N=14503) Minimum by municipality (N=11615)* Maximum by municipality (N=11615)* Median duration Source: Data Warehouse Labour Market & Social Security, own calculations *= calculated for the 159 municipalities with at least 20 recipients in our sample

18 Source: Data Warehouse Labour Market & Social Security, own calculations NMedian duration Region Brussels region Flemish region56286 Walloon region Number of inhabitants ≤ 9999 inhabitants – inhabitants – inhabitants – inhabitants34858 ≥ inhabitants37437 Median duration of 1st spell by region and by number of inhabitants in the community

19 Source: Data Warehouse Labour Market & Social security, own calculations

20

21 NMedian duration Socio-economic clusters in Brussels Living municipalities71512 Urbanized central municipalities Socio-economic clusters in Flanders Living municipalities8599 Rural municipalities5368 With a concentration of economic activity3617 Semi urban municipalities6946 Centre municipalities30185 Tourist municipalities1604 Socio-economic clusters in Wallonia Living municipalities61911 Rural municipalities40413 With a concentration of economic activity80311 Semi urban municipalities76812 Centre municipalities31909

22 22 Population composition Local labour market conditions Institutional design and implementation of social assistance -Generosity -Allocation to training and labour market programmes -Sanctions Local welfare mix Networks and resources Efficacy of training and labour market programmes 6. Explanatory mechanisms for local variation in time on welfare

23 23 7. Conclusion Substantial local variation in the percentage of adults claiming social assistance by municipality (0 – 8%) A clear regional pattern with regard to the incidence, and a concentration in the cities High turnover in Belgium to international standards (median duration of 8 months) Huge disparities in the median duration of the first spell by municipality: from 3 till 27 months

24 24 7. Conclusion The Flemish region has the highest turnover (median duration is 6 months) Indication of a negative relationship between the incidence of social assistance and the duration of the first spell and for the number of inhabitants in a municipality and for the socio-economic clusters Further exploration of determinants of local disparities is needed to gain insight in the role of local welfare agency policy

25 Thank you for your attention! Comments are also welcome on

26 Percentage of net disposable social assistance income for different household types to the 60% poverty threshold Source: Stasim, 2004, own calculations


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