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Towards Universalizing Socio-economic Security Strategic Elements of a Policy Framework
Ashwani Saith
The arguments developed in this article offer reflective advocacy for the widening of the agenda of social policy: away from the prevalent narrowly focused approach that relies on various forms of instrumental exclusionary targeting based on inherently flawed notions of absolute poverty, towards a more holistic vision of the universalization of socio-economic security that locates the issue of poverty within the broader analytical frames of vulnerability and well-being. The endemic inefficiencies, exclusionary tendencies and societal fractures inherent in targeting form the negative case for its rejection; in contrast, the positive synergies and externalities generated by socio-economic security add to the intrinsic ethical value of the alternative universalist approach. While going beyond a critique of the conventional position, the article assembles scaffolding for constructing a strategic policy template that integrates the diverse constitutive elements and key parameters of such a universalist approach. It highlights, and provides an a priori discussion of, the constraints, issues and options that have to be negotiated and resolved in the formulation of such a strategy, including the dimensions of content, scope and norms; institutions, governance and delivery mechanisms; supply side deficits; social exclusion barriers; resource and financial constraints; and multiple contending pathways towards the universalization of socio-economic security wherein rights are defined and claimed through the status of worker, entrepreneur, or citizen. The suggestion made here is for the weaving together of a universal socio-economic security cover in the form of an organic patchwork quilt, not through a standard state-supplied uniform straitjacket.

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