Making a Contribution - Social security for the future

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Making a Contribution - Social security for the future

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Touchstone pamphlet #12

William Beveridge's welfare state offered protection from poverty and guaranteed a minimum level of support for everyone who had made a contribution. But today's workers too often get 'nothing for something', paying into the system for little in return. This pamphlet shows that if the welfare state is to regain public support this needs to change.

Revitalising National Insurance is one way that we could rebuild confidence in social security, as well as boosting employment rates and growth prospects for the longer-term.

In this skilfully researched and detailed report, Kate Bell and Declan Gaffney address one of the key strategic policy issues of our time: how to regain public support for a redistributive welfare state. Their case for revitalising National Insurance should be required reading for progressive policy makers, who should note that National Insurance is not just politically important: this new analysis shows that strengthened contributory benefits could also help this country to address labour market and demographic challenges that threaten all attempts to return to prosperity.

What this pamphlet calls the 'nothing for something' welfare state is the result of a generation of successive cuts in National Insurance benefits, which have been accompanied by rises in National Insurance contributions. A third of a century ago, a worker would typically pay 6.5 per cent of their earnings in contributions and in return receive benefits that could include an earnings-related supplement and extra payments for dependent children and adults, as well as access to a system of reduced benefits for workers with an incomplete contributions record. Today, most of those enhancements have been lost, the real terms value of benefits has plummeted and the contributions rate has nearly doubled to 12 per cent.

A strategy for reviving support for social security for everyone must tackle this imbalance. Workers will support a generous welfare state that pays more to those who need it - but part of the deal must involve a guarantee of security for everyone.

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