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Editor: Nicola Yeates

Building on the successes of Understanding Global Social Policy (Yeates ed. 2008) and its companion text, the Global Social Policy Reader (Yeates and Holden ed. 2009), the second edition of this leading textbook in social policy identifies and reviews the key issues, debates and priorities for action in global social policy as a field of academic study and research and as a field of political practice and action. All first edition chapters have been systematically revised and updated to reflect major developments in the fast-paced area of global social policy making over the past five years, and include new material on the Millennium Development Goals, the Social Protection Floor and the ‘greening’ of global social policy. This much-needed second edition includes new chapters on global poverty and inequality, social protection, criminal justice and education. Written by an international team of leading social policy analysts , Understanding Global Social Policy is the leading textbook in the field and provides a comprehensive and accessible overview of international actors and social policy formation in global context. It is essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers, policy makers and practitioners seeking to identify key issues in contemporary social policy and locate them within a global framework of analysis and action.

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Author: Nicola Yeates

In the UK ‘social security’ predominantly refers to the system of cash benefits administered mainly by central government. Equating social security with state-administered cash benefits is not, however, the international norm. As the International Labour Organization (ILO) notes, ‘in many countries a sharp distinction is commonly drawn between social security on the one hand, and poverty alleviation measures on the other’ (ILO, 2000, p 29). Thus, in the US, ‘social security’ refers only to social insurance retirement and survivors’ and disability benefits, while social assistance payments are referred to as ‘welfare’. In France and many Latin American countries, ‘social security’ refers to social insurance benefits, including healthcare benefits, and excludes some social assistance benefits delivered at local level. In the Republic of Ireland, the term ‘social welfare’ is used in preference to ‘social security’, and while these terms are broadly synonymous, social welfare benefits do not include some disability, sickness and maternity benefits that are referred to as ‘health-related’ payments and administered by regional health boards. The ILO includes public spending on healthcare in addition to benefits (in cash and in kind) in its social security expenditure data because healthcare and social security are integrated in most countries.

The term ‘social protection’ captures the idea that income security derives from a combination of market, informal and public arrangements. Social protection refers to non-statutory income maintenance schemes, formal and informal, in addition to statutory schemes. This term draws attention to the broad range of arrangements and institutions to which individuals and households turn in order to satisfy their income needs.

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Author: Nicola Yeates

The notion that social policy and human welfare are shaped exclusively by domestic politics, institutions, policies and policy actors, has, over the last two decades, been gradually giving way to an understanding that there is an unmistakably transnational or global dimension to social policy. Global social politics, organisations, policies, programmes and policy actors are powerful forces which have a potent influence on domestic social policy, the terms of social development and the condition of human welfare around the world. They affect everyday lives in a myriad of ways, having an impact on individual and collective subjectivities, shaping major social institutions, framing policy responses and influencing social outcomes in ways that, although not always immediately perceptible, are nevertheless significant.

Building on the first edition of Understanding global social policy (Yeates, 2008), this second edition provides an up-to-date, comprehensive and accessible collection of research-based chapters that bring alive and illuminate key issues, debates and themes in contemporary global social policy. The book is tangibly concerned with the ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of global social policy. The 11 chapters in this volume examine a wide range of policy areas and issues to uncover what global social policy is, who is involved in making it, why it is needed, how it is enacted, what its consequences and impacts are, and what challenges lie ahead.

The remainder of this chapter provides an introduction to the book as a whole. It discusses the various impetuses in the process of reframing social policy as a global subject and what the prefix ‘global’ in global social policy signifies and implies.

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With a contemporary overview of global social policy formation, the third edition of this leading textbook identifies key issues, debates and priorities for action in social policy across the Global South and North.

Accessible and lively, it incorporates seven new chapters covering theory, social justice, climate, migration, gender, young people and water, energy and food. The original chapters have also been fully updated to reflect major developments in the fast-changing world of global social policy. Key features include:

• overview and summary boxes to bookend each chapter;

• questions for discussion and follow-up activities;

• further reading and resources.

Exploring what it means to locate human welfare within a global framework of social policy analysis and action, this textbook offers a perfect guide for curious students.

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For as long as humankind has existed, we have migrated. Whether in flight from persecution, war, conflict or poverty, or in search of peace, work, a career, a better climate or for love, migration is a normal part of everyday life. At another level, international migration is exceptional, in that international migrants account for just 3.5 per cent of the world’s population. This has remained the case for much of the last century (IOM, 2019, p 3).

Even though the aggregate number of migrants globally is actually rather small, migrants tend to be concentrated in certain areas of the world, hence the socioeconomic and political impacts of migration in relation to global policy-making and global social welfare are substantial, if unevenly distributed and experienced. At one level, migration is a major flashpoint in contemporary global politics, and a factor in widening global inequalities and the growth of political populism worldwide. At another level, migration gives rise to new social formations and welfare arrangements. Transnational connections among people include the sending of remittances, which play a crucial role in sustaining welfare and financing development. Migrant advocacy groups exhibit high degrees of political agency and policy activism. The effects of repeated, continuous movements of people over time impact on social structures, forging multistranded personal and social networks that give rise to diasporic families and communities, linking people and places, societies and economies, and health and welfare systems around the world.

For all these reasons and more besides, migration opens a fascinating vista on to the state of the world’s welfare, the contested politics of global social policy (GSP)-making, and political struggles over global development, state sovereignty, rights and resources.

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Authors: Mary Daly and Nicola Yeates


This article compares social security in the British and Irish welfare states. Laying emphasis on both historical origins and contemporary reforms, it develops and applies a comparative framework that brings together structural, political and ideological factors. The article outlines how two social security systems compare as regards principles, institutional features and political characteristics. It then goes on to identify the main reforms and their significance for the characteristics of each of the two models and the cross-national comparison. The analysis reveals that different factors are driving developments in both countries and that, despite common origins and some contemporary similarities, the two social security systems are moving in different directions.

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This article compares policy discourses concerning youth unemployment of seven international governmental organisations (IGOs). We classify the discourses according to broadly neoliberal and social democratic positions across labour market and social welfare domains, regarding causes of and responses to youth unemployment. We relate evidence of hybrids and shifts in IGOs’ discourses to wider institutional contexts of global social policy and to debates about IGO responses to the global financial crisis. Our analysis addresses a neglected sphere of global social policy and youth policy research and opens a window on the contested politics of the determination of a new policy field.

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