This panel examines expansionary innovations in social policy in the last two decades and assesses whether they can be the basis for universal welfare regimes in the South. To this end, the panel considers whether reforms have gone beyond access, to also reduce historical patterns of segmentation.
Starting in the 1980s, economic liberalisation and the pressures of fiscal discipline led to the retrenchment of many broad-based social policies. Limited compensatory programmes reached the poor while the non-poor were driven towards private means of social protection. More recently, the growing recognition of the costs of such reforms has driven innovation in social welfare provision in many parts of the developing world, with considerable South-South policy learning. These innovations have expanded coverage—particularly but not only among the very poor—of both transfers and services. New programmes covering millions of people have been created, from conditional cash transfers to non-contributory pensions. Generosity and equity in people's access to benefits has been less studied cross-nationally and across policy sectors, and yet these are crucial for present and future inequality. To what extent have these innovations in social policy reduced historical patterns of segmentation in the type and quality of benefits? Have they decreased inequality in society more generally? How might these new social policy innovations contribute to building more universal social welfare regimes? These are some of the questions we hope the papers for this panel will tackle.