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Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Assets-testing in Social Assistance Programmes Are the Welfare states moving towards savefare? Presented.

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Presentation on theme: "Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Assets-testing in Social Assistance Programmes Are the Welfare states moving towards savefare? Presented."— Presentation transcript:

1 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Assets-testing in Social Assistance Programmes Are the Welfare states moving towards savefare? Presented to OECD seminar: Life Risks, Life Course and Social Policy ( Professor Ivar Lødemel

2 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies And your mom was saving money for you in a jar. Tried to start a piggybank for you so that you could go to college. Almost had a thousand dollars, until someone broke in and stole it. And I know it hurt so bad it broke your mammas heart. From the song Mockingbird by Eminem

3 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Outline Present the main terms and issues The role of assets testing in the Welfare State Outline possible effects on saving behaviour Tentative comparison of means testing in a select number of OECD Member Countries, including changes in the period Discuss the extent to which changes are related to an increased emphasis on the need to promote saving Speculation about future scenario

4 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Key terms and concepts Social assistance Institutions of curtailment –Work house test (today: ideal type workfare?) –Less elibility (today: low benefits and strict means test) Means test –Earnings and other income (such as Child Benefit) –Assets

5 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Why focus on social assistance Assets-based initiatives focus on the poor The means test if often stricter in social assistance than in other means tested programmes From life course perspective: means testing in social assistance has greater implications than in for example old age pensions Lack of comparative studies following great changes in s.a. over the last decade

6 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies The means test in the Welfare State The hatred of the means test in the poor laws facilitated transition to modern welfare states Great variations in the use of means testing across welfare states (Australia vs Nordic) Highlights contradiction of the two aims of s.a. –Makes sense in ensuring lowest safetynet function –Resulting asset stripping in conflict with help-towards- selfhelp

7 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Arguments for means testing (in sa) Benefits targeted at poor are more effective in closing poverty gaps than are universal programmes..a comprehensive approach to poverty reduction calls for a program of well targeted transfers and safety nets.. (World Bank 1990) OECD Jobs Study (1994) Dependency argument (Malthus and Murray): avoid exposing people to welfare

8 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Aguments against a strict means test Dependency (Mead): discourages thrift and self help Poverty traps (asset traps) Inability to save for a rainy day Intrusive enquiry and stigma Low take-up Social divisiveness Undermines social capital (Rothstein) High administrative costs Poor relief rather than furthering self-reliance

9 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Review: Tentqtive on effects of assets test on saving Review of (some) 30 studies –Majority of studies conclude with negative effect –Few studies comparing systems with different assets test –US study 1995 found different saving in states with different rules (Powers 1995/1998) Vast majority of studies from the US –Saving is more important than in Europe –Much research closely related to ABW Lacking cross national comparison

10 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Means testing in OECD Member Countries 1994 (Eardley et al 1996) Strict: Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Japan Less strict: English speaking countries Eardley: An unlikely mix of countries

11 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Changes in allowable income from earnings and in assets 1994-present Canada (Ontario) –Earnings: from CD 143,- plus 25% of above to 50% of all earnings (2006) –Assets: Car, savings for childrens education (RESP) USA –Earnings: Exemptions remain low (up to poverty level) –Assets: Connecticut eliminated assets test for families with children. In general: exemptions of USD ,- UK –Earnings: still low disregards –Assets: exemption was unchanged , now doubled to pounds 6000,-

12 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Changes in other nations (examples) Denmark: Earnings disregard for recipients on activation Finland: 20% of earnings (up to Euro 150) disregarded Norway: Increased earnings disregard for people on activation

13 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Tentative asessment of changes Observed changes mainly related to earnings This corresponds with emphasis on activation and transition to work Less change with regard to assets More nations disregard child benefits (child poverty) No evidence to suggest that the growing interest in assets-based welfare has resulted in greater changes in ABW-nations (possible exception Canada)

14 Research Group for Inclusive Welfare Policies Discussion: Savefare as 3rd generation activation? Activation: generic for ALMP for the poor.. 1.Workfare: An offer you cant refuse 2.Trainfare: An offer.. (u shouldnt ref..) 3.Savefare: An offer (that seems to good to refuse?) Elements of what may become savefare Assets-based programmes for s.a. recipients Assets exemption only for participants Determines use of saved assets (paternalistic) Compulsory training for those accepting offer Danger (as with workfare): lots of claims about great effects, strong moral (under-)tones in advocacy/debate


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