The Indian government has announced a series of measures intended to provide comprehensive social security and pension provision. “The government proposes to work towards Universal Social Security for all Indians.” There’s some ground for scepticism, because many of the same aspirations were present shortly after India’s foundation. Many of the laws were put in place at that time, nominally covering firms with 10 or more employees – but they simply do not apply to the bulk of the population, who work in ‘informal’, unprotected settings.
The interesting point here is, I think, that the Indian government wants to do it, and believes that it can. There has been an extension of “Conditional Cash Transfers” in many parts of the world, including parts of India and Bangladesh. Meanwhile in Pakistan, there is a running discussion of whether it might be possible to found an Islamic welfare state there. Most comparative social policy is concerned with the differences between welfare states. Some years ago, I wrote a general theory of the welfare state, which tried to deal with what I think of as the greater puzzle: why so many states, despite the obvious differences between them, are trying to do the same things. The growth of social protection and social assistance in the intervening years has been described as a “quiet revolution”. The world is changing, for the better.