153.1 Pathways to universalism: Latin American experiences with social insurance and social assistance in comparative perspective

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 2:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Jeremy SEEKINGS , Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town, South Africa
The recent striking expansion across Latin America of two forms of social assistance - conditional cash transfers and social pensions – represents a new approach in that region to the challenge of universalizing social welfare and social citizenship. From the 1940s until the 1990s, it was generally imagined that universalism would be achieved through expanded coverage of contributory social insurance programmes, in terms of both risks and population. But when social insurance programmes ran into fiscal difficulties, targeted social assistance seemed to offer a more “efficient” as well as politically attractive alternative, albeit one that entrenches both fragmentation and stratification within public provision. This paper considers both the former and more recent Latin American pathways toward universalism from a more global perspective. It compares these pathways to the diverse pathways followed by different welfare regimes in the global North, and to alternative pathways followed in other parts of the global South. It is easily forgotten that Latin America was not the pioneer in social assistance programmes in the global South: social assistance programmes based on the British model were replicated, with modifications, in selected British dominions and colonies (including in the Caribbean) from the 1920s, were briefly recognised as an important element of “social security” by the International Labour Organisation in the mid- and late 1940s, and have re-emerged strongly on the policy agenda in the past twenty years in other regions, including especially Africa and South Asia. The second half of the paper examines the comparative politics of different pathways to universalism, and the political obstacles on these pathways.