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An International Comparison of Workers' Compensation.

This book undertakes an ambitious task, describing workers' compensation (WC) programs of 136 nations as to basic structure, design elements, history, and basic characteristics. For example, we learn immediately that the systems in the U.S., Canada, and Australia have a common element not existing elsewhere in the world, namely that their programs are decentralized and operated by states or provinces, rather than being controlled at a central government level. Whether this is good or bad is not addressed, at least directly. The author describes the standards by which WC programs may be judged, but does not attempt the task of evaluating the success of various approaches.

Dr. Williams' analysis is based largely on data gathered by the U.S. Social Security Administration in the study, Social Security Programs Throughout the World-1987. However, the treatment is enriched greatly by material obtained from the author's first hand study of the workers' compensation system in Japan, and by his own extensive background in the study of social insurance problems both nationally and internationally.

Anyone who has seen the Social Security study and has attempted to make sense out of endless tables will appreciate greatly the contribution Dr. Williams makes in enabling the reader to gain an appreciation of international WC systems. The writing is succinct, and yet sufficiently detailed to reveal essential elements in an easy-to-understand framework.

After introducing the reader to the main features of workers' compensation programs (benefits, covered conditions and employment, funding, etc.) the author analyzes the standards by which workers' compensation systems may be evaluated. He relies mainly on the standards developed by the International Labor Conference in Convention 121, ratified by 18 nations. He compares these to recommendations endorsed in the U.S. by the U.S. National Commission on State Workmen's Compensation Laws. The main criticisms of WC systems by these groups are described.

Chapter 3 compares details of world-wide WC systems. It is interesting to discover that about two-thirds of the nations in the world have made WC a part of a general social insurance system, rather than having it operate separately. Only five countries in the 141 nation survey do not have WC systems in place. Not all counties cover all occupational accident victims' medical expenses. Only 38 percent of the countries offer inflation protection form permanent total disability income benefits. Most countries finance benefits by a flat rate ranging from .25 to 3.0 percent of wages.

Chapter 4 breaks the analysis down by continent, wealth level, and financing systems for WC. Not surprisingly, it is found that wealthier nations tend to have more liberal programs and cover more workers.

A very interesting, and perhaps one of the most valuable, contributions is found in Chapter 5, where special attention is paid to WC programs in 13 countries: Germany, UK, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Korea, Japan, Sweden, Malaysia, Austria, Hungary, the USSR, and the USA. For example, the way in which the UK changed its WC system in 1946, when national health insurance was adopted, is analyzed. The description of the Japanese WC system is an original contribution to social insurance literature.

Dr. Williams has made a substantial contribution to social insurance literature in this volume. The work is especially noteworthy in that it fills a deep need for more internationally oriented studies in insurance. Students of risk management, insurance, economics, and business administration will find this volume a valuable reference. The work is indexed and thoroughly documented. It should be required reading not only for students but also those in government whose responsibility it is to amend and improve WC systems in the world.
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Author:Greene, Mark R.
Publication:Journal of Risk and Insurance
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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