Social Contract

Renewing the Social Contract for Work in Anglo-Saxon Economies

This policy brief argues that the traditional social contract has fragmented, unable to stand firm in the face of multiple centrifugal pressures. It suggests that labour markets now operate in the absence of an overarching institutional structure that satisfactorily balances employee demands for decent work with employer demands for organizational efficiency and flexibility.
 
Structural change and the search for greater labour market flexibility are identified as the two culprits for the disorganization of modern labour markets. The argument made here is that it is time to move beyond recriminations of labour market flexibility programmes so that more attention can be devoted to renewing the social contract for work in a manner that allows decentralized labour markets to operate in a socially responsible manner. 

Transborder Labour Liberalization

The failure of international trade law to liberalize labour stands in stark contradiction to the liberalization of other fundamental economic inputs, and undermines the vision for a globalized world. 

The transnational labour market is characterized by the illegality and temporariness that is assigned by states to mobile and would-be mobile human providers of labour; yet the globalized transnational economy stimulates, and indeed demands, the movement of labour from one domestic economy to another. 
 
The disjuncture and disequilibrium arising from the interaction of international trade law and domestic immigration law, which seeks to barricade domestic markets from the entry of human transborder labour providers, are in conflict with the reality of transnational economic forces. Consequently, they foster illegal transborder movements that greatly increase the vulnerability to exploitation of mobile human would-be labour providers.
 
The proposed liberalization of labour would make both the international human rights and multilateral trade regimes more consistent with human (and labour) rights ideals. 

Gendered Aspects of Activation Policies: The Limits of Welfare to Work

The current UK government has invested heavily in labour market activation, both as an economic and social strategy. This has resulted in the phased introduction of significant changes to welfare provision, operating alongside other activation-based initiatives, including a high-profile skills agenda, a national childcare strategy, and ‘family-friendly’ employment policies to smooth the path to paid work for those with family responsibilities. 
 
This policy brief argues that the pursuit of activation policies, particularly in the United Kingdom, is insufficiently attentive to issues of gender and to the closely related and complex nexus of gender, work, and care.
 
The brief takes as its focus the UK government’s welfare reform programme, concentrating on those aspects in which gender considerations are, or should be, of most significance. By so doing, it also seeks to contribute to the wider debate about the desirability and effectiveness of welfare-to-work policies. 
 

Crisis and the Welfare State: The Need for a New Distributinal Agenda

Contemporary welfare states remain in need of powerful policies aimed at protecting against new social risks, inclusion through work, and more equality in education and the labour market. Clearly, in less stratified societies, such as in Scandinavia, there is less scope for Matthew effects and these social policies are likely to be more effective.

However, this analysis suggests that welfare states should take more account of the highly stratified nature of ‘new social risks’, of the continuing need to protect people against the equally strongly stratified old social risks, and of the unsolved question of how to design and implement institutions that are more effective in creating equal opportunities. Adequate social security and efficient social redistribution are part and parcel of the social investment state.
 

Black Swans and Elephants on the Move: Can Emergencies Trigger Welfare State Reform?

Professor Frank Castles, Australian National University

An important lesson of history is that to create the conditions for change one must transform unfocused popular support for reform into the sharpened perception of an immediate source of emergency. This is a lesson that modern political managers are wont to forget.

Equality and Personal Responsibility in the New Social Contract

In this report and series of policy briefs, leading political scientists and policymakers examine the role of personal responsibility in creating the conditions necessary to achieve equality of opportunity.
 
Should personal circumstance and behaviour be a determinant in the allocation of resources or should the welfare state be blind to all but individual need? Is the notion of contract a valid one when applied to welfare relationships, and how far should our conception of responsibility extend into the realms of education and health policy?

In his inaugural address, US President Barack Obama declared the need for ’a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world.

 
 

Individual Responsibility and Welfare Contractualism

Jobseekers Agreements are just one type of behaviour management contract. Other contemporary examples include home-school agreements, youth offender contracts, and parenting contracts. 

The prevailing economic recession is leading to widening social inequalities and increasing the potential for unfairness in the formation and implementation of welfare contracts. 
 
If the state cannot guarantee fairness and reciprocity in Jobseeker’s Agreements, together with minimum levels of social inclusion and equality, the pretence of ‘contract’ in current welfare policy should be abandoned. 
 

Against Personal Responsibility for Welfare

Sometimes people's misfortunes are the consequence of chance, bad luck pure and simple. Other times they are the natural consequence of choices those people have freely made. A popular position, both in political philosophy and popular political discourse, says that people should be responsible for their own welfare. 

This principle is embodied in welfare reforms across the US, UK and much of the OECD world, requiring welfare recipients to sign 'contracts', 'compacts' or 'activation agreements' with caseworkers and allowing recipients to be 'breached off' the welfare programmes for failure to live up to those commitments.
 
Instead of backward-looking blame-responsibility, public policy should be organized around forward-looking principles of task-responsibility. The issue should not be 'who caused the problem' but, rather, who is best able to get us out of the problem.
 
In practice it is impossible to get the fine-grained personalized information that would be required to implement, without unacceptable levels of error, policies holding people personally responsible for their own welfare and denying public benefits to those whose plight is their own fault. Philosophers are wrong to recommend policies, impervious to the practical consequences of implementing them.