Social policy is often disparaged as being a burden on society, but this book shows that well-designed social protection can be an asset that is critical for sustaining social development. To fulfill its potential, however, social protection now needs to recognise new needs of individuals and families, and new constraints on their functioning. Successful programmes will require new means to attain their goals, to leverage the initiatives of a broad range of actors, and to involve clients at every stage in the design and delivery of programmes.
In examining these questions, this fact-filled report stresses the importance of shifting the focus of social programmes from insuring individuals against a few, well-defined contingencies towards investing in their capabilities and making use of them to the best of their potential at every stage of the life course. It also underscores the importance of broadening the roles played by individuals, employers and trade unions, as well as profit and not-for-profit providers of social services.
The book opens with a comprehensive assessment of the situation in OECD countries, comparing levels of poverty, social isolation, and social spending and indicators such as fertility rates, divorce rates, and distribution of household types (single, single parents, couples without children, couples with children). In Part II of the book, issues relating to families and children are explored, with interesting data provided on gender gaps in employment and earnings, time spent by men and women on child care, maternity and parental leave, and family poverty. The third part of the book examines poverty among prime-aged persons and includes extensive information on social assistance and disability. The final part of the book examines social issues faced by older people and includes interesting information on employment of older people, effective ages of retirement in different countries, training of older employees, pensions, and long-term care.