A NEW PILLAR OF SOCIAL PROTECTION AND PROMOTION IN LATIN AMERICA. (Fernando Filgueira, Uruguay)

A NEW PILLAR OF SOCIAL PROTECTION AND PROMOTION IN LATIN AMERICA. (Fernando Filgueira, Uruguay)

Fernando Filgueira

Social policy International expert, Uruguay


DEVELOPMENT AND PERSPECTIVES.

Latin America has made considerable progress in the fight against poverty and destitution, and there have been significant improvements in the levels of inequality. Economic improvements, concerning employment and salaries as well as the integration of the poor and vulnerable population into social security systems have helped in this sense. The demographic shift, with its impact on the drop in combined dependency rates has been another helpful factor. But there is another element that may account for such attainments. During the past 20 years a new generation of public policies has taken shape in the region. These may be described as policies to promote basic social inclusion. They rely on three components that have been combined in different ways in different countries in order to tackle extreme forms of destitution, poverty, and in some cases even social vulnerability.

The first and most widely known are conditioned or co-responsibility cash transfer policies (CTPs). The second group, often relying on the first one, is made up of actions directed to support families in conditions of social exclusion, and to include historically excluded sectors into the circuits of universal sectorial policies (especially healthcare and education). Finally, the policies for employment, capacitation and micro-entrepreneurship add up to the previous ones as so many levers trying to strengthen the income-generating capacity of the most poor and vulnerable sectors.

To properly understand the nature and the scope of such changes we need to reflect on four aspects which are often studied separately. First and foremost, it is important to approach the levels of coverage and fiscal effort of such policies.

Secondly, it is also important to discern the relative weight of each modality or component contained in these policies in every country, and their degree of coordination. Thirdly, it is appropriate to single out the form through which these three components are linked to historical forms of social protection and promotion. Lastly, it is necessary to assess the legal, programmatic or political stability character of each one of these components. Finally we must limit ourselves to the data resulting from our assessments and concerning the impact of such policies as concerns poverty, social inclusion, and the income-generating capacity of families.

The first element clearly showing the expansive character of social policies in our continent may be found in the increase of social expenditure in terms of GDP, and in the growing fiscal priority expressed as the percentage of social expenditure as compared with the overall expenditure. This new pillar combining CTPs, social protection networks, actions aiming at laboural integration, and the population’s income-generating capacity presents some remarkable innovations, if we compare it with the old passive social protection model based on contributions typical of import-replacement models, and even if we compare it with the lingering liberal watershed of limited focalization during the 1980s and 1990s.

The widespread growth and institutionalization of unconditioned cash transfer programmes point out that the decision-makers of public policies no longer see such programmes as temporary palliative measures charged with moral risks, where dates of entry and exit for the eligible population, and dates of start and closure of programmes depend on the economic cycle. Therefore, behind such new developments there is, firstly, a) the ever more widely accepted idea that the labour market, the levels of unreliability and inequality in the region do not enable a significant part of the population to reach in a structural way levels of income suitable to basic welfare through their integration into the labour market; b) such systemic insufficiencies must however be corrected through explicit guarantee mechanisms and the redistribution of revenues, c) this is especially true as regards parents with children, particularly infants.

In this perspective, to ensure adequate minimum consumption for children is not merely a question of charity or justice and rights, but also an issue in terms of economic efficiency, given the heavily negative inter-temporal externalities that undernourishment during infancy generates for society as a whole. Focalization criteria differ considerably in such programmes, both in terms of the required coverage and in the unity and mechanism of focalization.

The most important discussions about these programmes refer to their conditional character. Should transfers be conditioned to assistance to children through health checks, education and other services? Those who advocate for this method have explained that it may facilitate investments in human capital and they conceive it as a combination of civic rights and duties.

Thus, transfers are not merely a redistributive mechanism to attenuate poverty, but they are first and foremost a tool to correct the behaviour – considered improper – of poor or destitute families with children. Those who consider conditionality as negative persist in stating that it is a violation of the very right we are trying to build. If the guarantee of basic income is a normative pillar of the new benefits, to condition them is incompatible with the original purpose.

In this perspective, CTPs are to be considered as systems to incentivize families to participate in the domains of education and healthcare but, more importantly, they force the State to widen its offer and coverage to provide for such networks of social services.

Within the framework of the new basic social inclusion policies, CTPs are here to stay; however, the nature, scope, impact, and conjunction of these new measures may prove more or less relevant in, and consistent with, the building of general social protection in the different countries.

One of the issues identified in Latin America refers to the aspects of exclusion that characterize a considerable portion of the population living in income poverty. Income poverty is highly correlated to exclusion from the domains of education, employment, healthcare services, housing, and access to public and collective goods in general (sanitation, transport, etc). Nevertheless, such modalities of exclusion are not only the result of an insufficient demand, of discrimination or of difficulties in accessing the same due to red-tape and administrative barriers, but also of the absence of actions accomplished by individuals and families to look for and maintain a connection with basic public services and goods. This occurs because of a lack of information about such services and goods, or else because of subcultures and family fragmentation processes that hinder a fuller exploitation of the available structure of opportunity. Thus, there arises a setting that reflects the so-called “trap of poverty.”

The idea of social protection networks originates from this diagnosis with multiple causes concerning the exclusion of large social segments from the basic structure of opportunity for welfare and social integration. In order to tackle such situations, four mechanisms have been devised: a) the socio-assistential work of proximity and territorial basis that is trying to reinforce families and their connections with the available goods and services, b) the conditionality mechanisms already mentioned in our analysis of CTPs, aimed at incentivizing through a monetary reward the inclusion and the permanence of children and mothers into the healthcare and educational systems, c) the widening of the offer and infrastructure of territorially-based services (general hospitals, schools, sports, etc.), d) the support to cooperative and community forms of participation, management and creation of services through public contributions.

Lastly, in addition to these two components (CTPs and social inclusion networks) employment programmes and generation of income are becoming widespread. Despite the undoubtable growth of municipalities and instruments, employment programmes are still characterized by their fiscal and institutional weakness, and by levels of coverage that are still very low.

In conclusion, basic social inclusion policies are now an unescapable reality in the region. Their essentially focused character should not lead to misunderstandings. Such policies are no longer remedial-assistential models targeting extreme poverty. The benefits, the coverage and the fiscal efforts put in place show a dynamic and expansive scenario. This does not mean that such models have ripened and are an integral part of universal (or with universal claims) social protection systems. Nonetheless, they are constituent parts of the architecture that is being built by States which guarantee basic forms of social citizenship.

The appearance and the growing consolidation of these systems has produced a strong impact on the institutional ability of the States to face poverty and vulnerability, whilst at the same time they have forced social structures to attain a higher level of coordination and exchange of information. In some countries, the counterpart of these virtuous dynamics is the trend towards a fragmentation of the programmes into an unmanageable multiplicity of municipalities, implements, and micro-state institutions, which later become established like geological layers, with no evaluation or strategic orientation.

The key question still concerns the evolution of the legal and political bases of such initiatives. If they will be incorporated into a welfare state architecture whose central orientation is the fight against inequality and the promotion of social cohesion, they will be as many constituent parts of a possible new universality aimed at preventing (and therefore at pre-ensuring) rather than fighting against situations of poverty, vulnerability, and exclusion. In other words: a) conditional transfer programmes lose their conditionality and their coverage is expanding, whilst they are being coordinated with contributory systems – or, better yet, becoming an essential part of such systems, b) protection and social inclusion networks turn the segmented and excluding aspects of allegedly universal policies by facilitating a full access to the same; c) employment programmes are no longer focused implants, fiscally weak and institutionally discontinuous, and they have now become a part of an active policy scheme for employment.

Full text in Spanish

DEVELOPMENT AND PERSPECTIVES.

Latin America has made considerable progress in the fight against poverty and destitution, and there have been significant improvements in the levels of inequality. Economic improvements, concerning employment and salaries as well as the integration of the poor and vulnerable population into social security systems have helped in this sense. The demographic shift, with its impact on the drop in combined dependency rates has been another helpful factor. But there is another element that may account for such attainments. During the past 20 years a new generation of public policies has taken shape in the region. These may be described as policies to promote basic social inclusion. They rely on three components that have been combined in different ways in different countries in order to tackle extreme forms of destitution, poverty, and in some cases even social vulnerability.

The first and most widely known are conditioned or co-responsibility cash transfer policies (CTPs). The second group, often relying on the first one, is made up of actions directed to support families in conditions of social exclusion, and to include historically excluded sectors into the circuits of universal sectorial policies (especially healthcare and education). Finally, the policies for employment, capacitation and micro-entrepreneurship add up to the previous ones as so many levers trying to strengthen the income-generating capacity of the most poor and vulnerable sectors.

To properly understand the nature and the scope of such changes we need to reflect on four aspects which are often studied separately. First and foremost, it is important to approach the levels of coverage and fiscal effort of such policies.

Secondly, it is also important to discern the relative weight of each modality or component contained in these policies in every country, and their degree of coordination. Thirdly, it is appropriate to single out the form through which these three components are linked to historical forms of social protection and promotion. Lastly, it is necessary to assess the legal, programmatic or political stability character of each one of these components. Finally we must limit ourselves to the data resulting from our assessments and concerning the impact of such policies as concerns poverty, social inclusion, and the income-generating capacity of families.

The first element clearly showing the expansive character of social policies in our continent may be found in the increase of social expenditure in terms of GDP, and in the growing fiscal priority expressed as the percentage of social expenditure as compared with the overall expenditure. This new pillar combining CTPs, social protection networks, actions aiming at laboural integration, and the population’s income-generating capacity presents some remarkable innovations, if we compare it with the old passive social protection model based on contributions typical of import-replacement models, and even if we compare it with the lingering liberal watershed of limited focalization during the 1980s and 1990s.

The widespread growth and institutionalization of unconditioned cash transfer programmes point out that the decision-makers of public policies no longer see such programmes as temporary palliative measures charged with moral risks, where dates of entry and exit for the eligible population, and dates of start and closure of programmes depend on the economic cycle. Therefore, behind such new developments there is, firstly, a) the ever more widely accepted idea that the labour market, the levels of unreliability and inequality in the region do not enable a significant part of the population to reach in a structural way levels of income suitable to basic welfare through their integration into the labour market; b) such systemic insufficiencies must however be corrected through explicit guarantee mechanisms and the redistribution of revenues, c) this is especially true as regards parents with children, particularly infants.

In this perspective, to ensure adequate minimum consumption for children is not merely a question of charity or justice and rights, but also an issue in terms of economic efficiency, given the heavily negative inter-temporal externalities that undernourishment during infancy generates for society as a whole. Focalization criteria differ considerably in such programmes, both in terms of the required coverage and in the unity and mechanism of focalization.

The most important discussions about these programmes refer to their conditional character. Should transfers be conditioned to assistance to children through health checks, education and other services? Those who advocate for this method have explained that it may facilitate investments in human capital and they conceive it as a combination of civic rights and duties.

Thus, transfers are not merely a redistributive mechanism to attenuate poverty, but they are first and foremost a tool to correct the behaviour – considered improper – of poor or destitute families with children. Those who consider conditionality as negative persist in stating that it is a violation of the very right we are trying to build. If the guarantee of basic income is a normative pillar of the new benefits, to condition them is incompatible with the original purpose.

In this perspective, CTPs are to be considered as systems to incentivize families to participate in the domains of education and healthcare but, more importantly, they force the State to widen its offer and coverage to provide for such networks of social services.

Within the framework of the new basic social inclusion policies, CTPs are here to stay; however, the nature, scope, impact, and conjunction of these new measures may prove more or less relevant in, and consistent with, the building of general social protection in the different countries.

One of the issues identified in Latin America refers to the aspects of exclusion that characterize a considerable portion of the population living in income poverty. Income poverty is highly correlated to exclusion from the domains of education, employment, healthcare services, housing, and access to public and collective goods in general (sanitation, transport, etc). Nevertheless, such modalities of exclusion are not only the result of an insufficient demand, of discrimination or of difficulties in accessing the same due to red-tape and administrative barriers, but also of the absence of actions accomplished by individuals and families to look for and maintain a connection with basic public services and goods. This occurs because of a lack of information about such services and goods, or else because of subcultures and family fragmentation processes that hinder a fuller exploitation of the available structure of opportunity. Thus, there arises a setting that reflects the so-called “trap of poverty.”

The idea of social protection networks originates from this diagnosis with multiple causes concerning the exclusion of large social segments from the basic structure of opportunity for welfare and social integration. In order to tackle such situations, four mechanisms have been devised: a) the socio-assistential work of proximity and territorial basis that is trying to reinforce families and their connections with the available goods and services, b) the conditionality mechanisms already mentioned in our analysis of CTPs, aimed at incentivizing through a monetary reward the inclusion and the permanence of children and mothers into the healthcare and educational systems, c) the widening of the offer and infrastructure of territorially-based services (general hospitals, schools, sports, etc.), d) the support to cooperative and community forms of participation, management and creation of services through public contributions.

Lastly, in addition to these two components (CTPs and social inclusion networks) employment programmes and generation of income are becoming widespread. Despite the undoubtable growth of municipalities and instruments, employment programmes are still characterized by their fiscal and institutional weakness, and by levels of coverage that are still very low.

In conclusion, basic social inclusion policies are now an unescapable reality in the region. Their essentially focused character should not lead to misunderstandings. Such policies are no longer remedial-assistential models targeting extreme poverty. The benefits, the coverage and the fiscal efforts put in place show a dynamic and expansive scenario. This does not mean that such models have ripened and are an integral part of universal (or with universal claims) social protection systems. Nonetheless, they are constituent parts of the architecture that is being built by States which guarantee basic forms of social citizenship.

The appearance and the growing consolidation of these systems has produced a strong impact on the institutional ability of the States to face poverty and vulnerability, whilst at the same time they have forced social structures to attain a higher level of coordination and exchange of information. In some countries, the counterpart of these virtuous dynamics is the trend towards a fragmentation of the programmes into an unmanageable multiplicity of municipalities, implements, and micro-state institutions, which later become established like geological layers, with no evaluation or strategic orientation.

The key question still concerns the evolution of the legal and political bases of such initiatives. If they will be incorporated into a welfare state architecture whose central orientation is the fight against inequality and the promotion of social cohesion, they will be as many constituent parts of a possible new universality aimed at preventing (and therefore at pre-ensuring) rather than fighting against situations of poverty, vulnerability, and exclusion. In other words: a) conditional transfer programmes lose their conditionality and their coverage is expanding, whilst they are being coordinated with contributory systems – or, better yet, becoming an essential part of such systems, b) protection and social inclusion networks turn the segmented and excluding aspects of allegedly universal policies by facilitating a full access to the same; c) employment programmes are no longer focused implants, fiscally weak and institutionally discontinuous, and they have now become a part of an active policy scheme for employment.

Full text in Spanish