This article forms part of an ongoing series looking at economic issues as Australia heads into the Federal Election. More coverage can be found on the Election 2013 page of ESSA’s website.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century was undoubtedly the conceptualisation and implementation of what has become known as the ‘welfare state’. The term is generally not used in any exact way, rather in a vague and imprecise manner with an overarching theme of the government having a degree of responsibility for the health and social well-being of the population.
Broadly speaking, the two extremes of the potential function of the welfare state are universalism and selectivism. Universalism, as the name suggests, refers to universal access to welfare programs regardless of an individual’s wealth. Selectivism is the opposite, with welfare ‘means-tested’ and distributed based on an individual’s needs.