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Index of Volumes

VOLUME 139, NUMBER 2 2000/2



Introduction — Social policy and social protection

Social policy serves to define a society, and the absence of social protection of its weakest members constitutes a social failure. Though widespread, that failure is not inevitable. Certainly, globalization, the informalization of work and poverty present a powerful challenge to social policy. Yet, as Amartya Sen argues in this issue, well-deliberated action can transform a dreaded anticipation into a constructive reality: "The increasingly globalized world economy calls for a similarly globalized approach to basic ethics and political and social procedures." Surprisingly, many seemingly intractable problems and perceived conflicts are more easily resolved when the approach is universal.

Work and rights

Amartya SEN

This article examines four conceptual features of "decent work" essential to its achievement in a context of globalization. First is an inclusive approach, not just focusing on some categories of workers. Universality means facing difficult questions — some perceived conflicts of interest are real — but a comprehensive framework makes it possible to address them. The second feature is rights-based thinking, acknowledging certain basic rights that transcend legal recognition. The third is placing work within a broad economic, political and social context — one that includes democratic values. And fourth, the extension of thinking from international to the truly global.

Social protection for all: But how?


As interest focuses worldwide on the future of social protection, this article illuminates that complex subject, paying particular attention to developing countries. Despite measurement difficulties, the author explains the extent of coverage, the impact of influences such as the informalization of work, and the significance of economic, social and political factors when defining the problem. He evaluates difficulties in extending compulsory coverage of contributory schemes; promoting voluntary coverage of such schemes; introducing universal benefits; and establishing or extending means-tested benefits. Recalling the linkages between these components, he concludes with clear-minded comments about what is feasible in social protection provision.

Equal treatment, social protection and income security for women


The financial dependency of women and their disproportionate share of unpaid work infect social protection systems, rendering them discriminatory. Thus they are less successful in providing income security to women than to men. Despite a commitment to equality, European Court of Justice case law reveals a mixed result. The gender basis of social protection systems and the effects of women's more fragile employment histories are not being effectively countered by that attempt to enforce legal equality. Applying several definitions of equality the author identifies discriminatory practices and then examines options, including individualization and caregiving credits, for making progress.

Partial retirement and pension policy in indusrialized countries


Partial retirement refers to a transitional period between full-time employment and complete retirement, during which a person works part time while receiving a pension. After assessing its incidence, the authors examine its advantages and disadvantages — including easing the transition to retirement, labour market and distributional impacts, and financial implications for social security systems and for employers. Social security features and government and corporate policies that encourage or discourage partial retirement are then discussed. A review of partial retirement policies in eight countries leads to some useful conclusions in the light of the current tendency — and need — to keep people in the labour market longer.
Pension reform: What the debate is about

Pension scheme reform poses a highly complex challenge. This perspective aims to clarify the underlying policy options, e.g. social assistance vs. insurance, pay-as-you-go vs. fully funded schemes, defined benefits vs. defined contributions, voluntary vs. mandatory participation, coverage rates, etc. It explains why the traditional debate over pay-as-you-go vs. fully funded schemes misses the point. Demographic trends, including ageing of the population, should not be considered in isolation from changes in female labour force participation, productivity or employment, from the redistributive function of pension schemes, or from the universal principles underpinning the ILO's approach (outlined in the concluding section).

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ISSN 1564-913X

Updated by MCN. Approved by MFL . Last update: 18 December 2000.