Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, (UNDHR) legitimizes the socio-economic rights of citizens of all nations as stated below:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control” (Hartley Dean; 2004).
The human subject is endemically vulnerable and to survive requires collective organized mechanism for mutual cooperation and support (Hartley Dean; 2004). To manage this endemic vulnerability the human subjects form this collective organized mechanism they call governments that would be responsible for fostering and regulating that mutual cooperation and support (welfare). It is this process of the increasing role of the state or the government in social welfare (Gladstone; 2000) that has given rise to the concept of the welfare state.
Gladstone (2000) has traced the foundations of the modern welfare state (at least in British politics) to the period between 1884 and 1914. To him this period witnessed a pivotal change both in ideas and actions as it saw “a re-negotiation of the relationship between state and citizen in matters of welfare and well-being. And in the process of that re-negotiation, many issues were raised which have become the essentials of twentieth century politics…” He cites these issues to include
1. Relations between central government and local authorities;
2. The financing of an expanding state and the burden of taxation;
3. The rights and responsibilities of citizens
4. The relationship between work and welfare;
The welfare state has been defined by various scholars. A random Google search using the term “welfare state” will reveal multiple results. However the following three capture the essential elements across the social, economic and political schools of thoughts. They describe the welfare state as
1. A set of government program that attempt to provide economic security for populations by providing for the people when they are unemployed, ill or elderly.
2. A system whereby the state undertakes ostensibly to protect the health and well-being of its citizens, especially those in financial needs .
3. A state whose government devotes a very large proportion of its activities and expenditures to the direct provision of the personal benefits to be consumed by qualifying individuals or families, or governmental entities in the form of supplies, professional services, government issued stipends, allowances or subsidies.
Central in all these definitions is the role of the state vis-à-vis the citizens. The state has the responsibility to carter for its citizens irrespective of what the citizens do for the state. This means that the welfare state is not a give and take or a...