Social Policy is state intervention that directly affects social
welfare, social institutions and social relations. It involves
overarching concerns with redistribution, production, reproduction and
protection, and works in tandem with economic policy in pursuit of
national social and economic goals. Social policy does not merely deal
with the \"causalities\" of social changes and processes; it is also a
contribution to the welfare of society as a whole.
Social policy may be embedded in economic policy, when the latter has
intended welfare consequences or reflects implicit or explicit
socioeconomic priorities, such as reducing politically unacceptable
levels of unemployment or producing the human skills for development.
But most elements of social policy are explicit, such as direct
government provision of social welfare through, for example, broad-based
education and health services, subsidies and benefits, social security
and pensions, labour market interventions, land reform, progressive
taxation and other redistributive policies.
Social policy can also be used to transform gender, racial and other
social relations - through, for example, \"affirmative action\",
anti-discrimination legislation and laws pertaining to marriage and the
family. Social policies can also be deployed to regulate existing or to
produce new social institutions and norms. Thus an important feature of
social policy is the establishment and enforcement of standards and
regulations that shape the role of non-state actors and markets in
UNRISD research has highlighted the development role of social policy,
even as it addresses issues of intrinsic value such as social
protection, equality and social citizenship. The research also offers
arguments for rescuing social policy from the residual role it was
assigned during much of the 1980s and 1990s.
This Research and Policy Brief presents some of the key lessons from the
UNRISD research. How these lessons are absorbed or translated into
national policy will, of course, depend on national contexts.
Furthermore, the complex interplay among the various policies suggested
by these lessons must be borne in mind, as must the importance of
context and the historical circumstances of each country.
Briefing available in english, french and spanish.
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva, Switzerland, ISSN 1811-0142, 6 pp.