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Extending Opportunities

How Active Social Policy Can Benefit Us All

Extending Opportunities by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
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Social policy is often disparaged as being a burden on society, undermining the entrepreneurial spirit, discouraging work and savings, and fostering dependency on the state. Bad social policy can indeed have negative effects, but social policy is not inevitably bad. An increasing body of evidence has been gathered in recent years that shows which programmes are effective in improving social outcomes, and which are not. Well-designed social protection is not a cumbersome inheritance from the past, but an asset that is critical for sustaining social development. Indeed, its role will inevitably grow in the future as technological change, lifelong learning and globalisation increase opportunities for those who are well-equipped in skills and resources and further disadvantage those who are not. To fulfil its potential, however, social protection needs to be forward-looking to deal with the challenges emerging in the 21st century, rather than reacting to the problems of the past. It needs to recognise new needs of individuals and families, and new constraints on their functioning. Successful programmes require new means to attain their goals, to leverage the initiatives of a broad range of actors, and to involve clients at every stage in the design and delivery of programmes.

In exploring responses to these challenges, this report promotes the concept of active social policies. This concept stresses the importance of shifting the focus of social programmes from insuring individuals against a few, well-defined contingencies towards investing in their capabilities and making use of them to the best of their potential at every stage of the life course. It also underscores the importance of broadening the roles played by individuals, employers and trade unions, as well as profit and not-for-profit providers of social services within a more ambitious social protection system.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; January 2005
198 pages; ISBN 9789264007956
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Title: Extending Opportunities
Author: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development