After 25 years of expansion and liberalization in the postwar period, social security policies in industrial countries have been encountering stresses and strains in the 1970s and 1980s, in an environment of slower economic growth, concern over inflation, and high unemployment. This has led to intensified controversy between conservatives, who blame economic instability on the generosity of the welfare state, and liberals, who defend the role of social security programs in contributing to economic stability and preventing people from falling into poverty. Dr Gordon's book includes chapters on each of the major types of social security programs, drawing on data from most of the OECD countries and the Soviet bloc. There are also chapters and the trend toward early retirement. Particular emphasis is given to the countries that have led in the development of innovative policies. The discussion focuses on questions such as the relative merits of earnings-related, income-tested, and universal benefits; who bears the financial burden; and the impact of social security benefits on incentives to work.
Among the controversial issues receiving considerable attention are the arguments over the persistence of high unemployment in Western Europe, the attacks on 'entitlements' that benefit the middle class, and the growing problem of disadvantaged youth, especially in the ghetto areas of the large cities in some of the Western European countries and in the United States.
"This is a highly competent and informative book presenting social security in international perspective. It is comprehensive in scope and depth of coverage. It also effectively combines information on the conceptual design and actual performance of specific programs and policies with pertinent economic and other broad-gauged observations to highlight different social policy objectives and tools." Industrial and Labor Relations Review "An international perspective on social policy may cause an analyst to question previously unquestioned premises. It may suggest a broader range of solutions to social problems. It may provide new observations with added variability, allowing for new tests of theory. Margaret GORD succeeds in all three areas." John A. Turner, Journal of Economic Literature