Need of Universal Social Welfare – UPSC GS2

What is Universal Social Welfare / Social Security?
  • According to the International Labour Organisation, Social security is the protection that society provides to individuals and households.
  • This ensures access to health care and guarantees income security; particularly in cases of old age, unemployment, sickness, invalidity, etc.
  • Giving such protection to every individual in the country is called Universal Social Welfare.
Need of Universal Social Welfare:
  • Vulnerability of masses:
    • The pandemic has enhanced the vulnerability of masses as:
      • It has pushed an estimated 75 million people into poverty.
  • Poor performance of Social Welfare schemes:
    • The country has over 500 direct benefit transfer schemes but still many weren’t able to get desired benefits during the pandemic.
    • The schemes are fractionalized across various departments and sub-schemes. This causes problems on every stage of the scheme from data collection to last-mile delivery.
  • Universal Programs show better results:
    • India’s Pulse Polio Universal Immunisation Programme helped it to become polio-free in 2014. This shows the country has the potential to run universal programs and achieve better results.
  • Avoiding Inclusion/Exclusion errors: 
    • Universal system will encompass every individual and household in the country thereby tackling the problem of inclusion/exclusion.
  • Improved Living Standard:
    • Access to education, maternity benefits, disability benefits, etc. social benefits would ensure a better standard of living for the people.
Ireland Case Study:
  • The country can learn from successful global models like Ireland’s Poor Law System.
  • The system was introduced in the 19th century to provide relief to the masses. It was financed by local property taxes.
  • The system was built keeping in mind the future economic crisis and dignity of the masses.
  • It has now evolved into a four-fold apparatus. It promises social insurance, social assistance, universal schemes, and extra benefits/supplements.
Way Forward:
  • The government should map the State and Central schemes in a consolidated manner. This would avoid duplication, inclusion, and exclusion errors in delivering welfare services.
  • For instance, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) can be strengthened into universal social security.
  • It already consolidates the public distribution system (PDS), the provision of gas cylinders, and wages for the MGNREGA.
  • It must compute the costs of delivering universal social services. Post computation, robust steps must be taken to arrange the requisite amount.
  • There must be a focus on data digitization, data-driven decision-making, and collaboration across government departments. This would improve the implementation potential.

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