Poverty development in affluent welfare states

Authored by: Kate Summers

Routledge International Handbook of Poverty

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367178666
eBook ISBN: 9780429058103
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter traces trends in poverty over time in some of the richest countries in the world, with the relatively most developed welfare state systems. The chapter begins by providing a statistical description of the development of poverty and highlights some key distinctions and debates in terms of how poverty is measured. In particular the use of relative, money metric measures is identified and justified, as well as important developments in multidimensional and consumption-based measures. Worrying trends in levels of child poverty are discussed. Next the chapter considers how, and to what extent, affluent welfare states have been successful in reducing poverty. While there are ongoing debates as to the relative roles of universal versus means-tested policy approaches, it is concluded that irrespective, high levels of social spending and adequate minimum income protection are imperative for effectively tackling poverty. Last, the chapter considers some of the contemporary societal changes affecting poverty development in affluent welfare states, namely the changing nature of the labour market and demographic shifts, which pose serious challenges to poverty levels and require ambitious policy responses.

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