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Into the twenty-first century: the development of social security.

The book is subtitled, "A report to the Director-General of the International Labour Office on the response of the social security system in industrialized countries to economic and social change." It is the joint effort of 3 years of labor by 10 illustrious experts on social security drawn from as many nations and given the charge, "to provide him [the Director-General of the ILO] with a report on the likely evolution of social security in industrialized countries as we approach the end of this century."

The volume is slim but rich in content. It is timely and important, both because of its thoughtful conclusions and recommendations--even though one may disagree with some of them (as the authors readily concede)--and even more so because of the forceful and courageous reaffirmation by the authors of the essential, lasting, and dynamic role that social security must play in modern society.

The drafting of the report and the recommendations fell to Professor Brian Abel-Smith of the London School of Economics. He culled the descriptive part of the report from factual material and documentation contributed by members of the study group and by the Social Security Department of the International Labour Office.

Chapter I covers social security's achievements, the real or alleged drawbacks, notably economic and financial, as well as the shortfalls and failures, and identifies unsolved problems.

Chapter 2 stakes out some goals for the foreseeable future. It examines the programs' continued raison d'etre, their character (comprehensive and universal or selective), and their place within a country's socioeconomic fabric, for example, income distribution and poverty.

Chapters 3 to 6 deal with developments in cash benefits; services; relations with the public; and financing. Chapter 7 projects the future for social security as a whole, as well as in terms of its component parts.

Although of primary interest to specialists in the field, the book can be easily understood by laymen. It may be particularly useful as a supplemental text in college and university courses on social policy and as a study guide in training courses sponsored by labor and civic organizations. Futurists will also be interested in it, as will those persons concerned with enhancing the well-being of citizens as a whole. In fact, the authors repeatedly link a "sense of community" with any kind of social security. They refer to it variously as a "sense of shared responsibility" or a "consciousness of solidarity"--"national solidarity" at present and "perhaps--tomorrow--international solidarity."

The book offers many challenging propositions to program planners and developers. For example, the redefinition of the aims of social security; the identification of new patterns of dependency; new conceptions of prevention and rehabilitation; the plea for "a unified system of disability benefits;" innovative thoughts on the changing nature of some of the common contingencies, such as old age and unemployment, and corresponding changes in benefit structure in light thereof; the complementarity of private programs--statutory and other; and unconventional views on financing. Reiterating that "above all else, social security is a compact between generations," the authors regard the establishment of "an efective minimum incme for all residents" as "the major challenge for social security policy to be achieved before the year 2000."

Going beyond this practical target, the authors would hold both the individual and the community responsible "for maintaining and preserving good physical and mental health," and they advocate that "people should be coerced, or believe they may be coerced, into using social services by the threat of withdrawal of cash assistance." No dearth here of issues for lively, even passionate, discussion!

At a time when it is increasingly fashionable to highlight social security's shortcomings and problem areas, notably inequities, and to plead for the drastic retrenchment or even the phasing out ot social security as obsolete--sometimes from a rather narrow socioeconomic perspective--the affirmative, constructive, and imaginative treatment offered in this book is indeed gratifying.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Rohrlich, George F.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1985
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