Extension of Social Security - Working Paper - ESS 60

Building an adequate U.S. labor and social protection system for the 21st century

Over the last several decades the economic prospects facing U.S. workers and households have changed in substantial ways. For most, it has been a change for the worse. This paper is intended to bring analytical clarity and focus to the issues that currently confront workers, households and policy makers in the spheres of employment and social protection.

This paper reviews the erosion of labor and social protections for U.S. workers and households over recent decades. It discusses the causes and the relative weight of different elements of the erosion in order to bring clarity to the discussion of needed reforms. It proposes a framework of policy objectives and principles to guide choices for reform among policy alternatives in the specific U.S. context.

The paper also explores the relative merits of some alternative proposals to address these challenges. The prospects for political and legislative action to create a viable modern social and labor protection system are discussed.

The paper concludes that updating and strengthening existing elements of the U.S. system provides a firm foundation for creating an adequate U.S. labor and social protection floor for the 21st century, if critical additional rights and programs are built on and integrated into this foundation.