A social welfare system is a system that provides assistance to individuals and families that are facing economic hardship. The assistance comes in different forms, and can provide many benefits to society as a whole in the short term and long term.
DIFFERENT FORMS OF WELFARE
There are many welfare schemes that can help vulnerable people, and each provides its own set of benefits. Some welfare schemes involve the provision of basic services, such as food and healthcare, to everyone in a society. This is called universal welfare, as it can be used by anybody.
There are also forms of welfare that are only available to specific people. One example is maternity leave, where new mothers are able to take time off work to look after their children, and can still receive pay. Other specific welfare schemes include disability benefit, which gives money to disabled people who are unable to work, and unemployment benefit, which gives money to people without a job to pay for their living costs until they find employment.
BENEFITS OF WELFARE SYSTEMS
Welfare schemes have huge economic and social benefits. For example, systems such as universal healthcare and unemployment benefit are an important ‘safety net’ (protection against possible hardship) for people working in business. Entrepreneurs and investors are more likely to take risks if they know that their basic needs are protected, even in times of financial difficulty. This leads to a culture of investment and growth which boosts employment and economic activity within society as a whole.
It is important to know that welfare systems do not just help the most vulnerable people in society – they help everyone. Even welfare schemes such as pensions, that do not directly aid people in the workforce, benefit them indirectly. If old people get a universal pension which the government pays into, they will put less financial strain on their families. Their families will not have to spend as much money looking after them, and this money could instead go towards other opportunities such as higher education for their children, or greater investment in goods and services (which would benefit the economy).
WHEN WELFARE WORKS WELL
Recently there have been several case studies on the economic and social benefits of welfare provision. For example, in western Kenya a charity called GiveDirectly has been studying the effects of providing people with lump sums of cash, regardless of what they spend it on – this is called universal basic income (UBI). The study found that welfare recipients used the money to invest in their futures, spending it on things like fishing nets and school fees, as well as basic necessities such as food and clean water. This shows that social welfare could be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and improving people’s standards of living.