Integrated Social Policy Report V: Towards a New Welfare Mix? Rethinking the Role of the State, the Market and Civil Society in the Provision of Social Protection and Social Services

Organization(s): ESCWA
Author: Gisela Nauk, Vanessa Steinmayer
Regions: Arab States, Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2014
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Welfare systems in Arab countries are at their limits. Stretched by substantial population growth over
the past years, the Governments are increasingly unable to integrate all people from all ages, all regions
and all income groups into the labour market and into social protection schemes. After initial years of
development progress, the accessibility and quality of public social services declined significantly and
failed to meet people’s expectations.

At the same time, solid economic growth over the past decades and development achievements in the
areas of health and education have nurtured the emergence of a new middle class, whose aspirations to
upward social mobility, better economic chances and productive integration into society were largely
thwarted.

The two trends together exposed the limits of States to exert their role of guarantors of human and social rights as enshrined in many Arab constitutions, and as expected by their citizens. States are challenged simultaneously on the social and economic fronts. The current urge for increased social protection comes at a time where the fiscal capacity of the public sector is restricted. Although public social spending is substantial, a big part of expenditure flows into subsidies and universal services, which makes it difficult to establish distributional effects.

Moreover, a multitude of non-state actors are engaged in the social sphere, often providing essential
services to the population. While their involvement certainly increases the coverage of the population
and improves their access to social services, such diversity of actors also entails the risk of fragmentation.

Unless the quantity and quality of services are well regulated and coordinated, inequalities may go
unnoticed and not be addressed.

The present report explores a number of questions related to the “welfare mix” of social protection
and services provided by different actors in Arab countries. The main questions are as follows. How
efficient is the current welfare mix? Who are the main actors? How are they coordinated? How effective
are they in ensuring social protection for the entirety of the population?

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