• Title/Summary/Keyword: Noncompliance

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The Achievements and limitations of the U. S. Welfare Reform (미국 복지개혁의 성과와 한계)

  • Kim, Hwan-Joon
    • Korean Journal of Social Welfare
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    • v.53
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    • pp.129-153
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    • 2003
  • This study examines the socio-economic impacts of recent welfare reform in the United States. Based on the neo-conservative critique to the traditional public assistance system for low-income families, the 1996 welfare reform has given greater emphases on reducing welfare dependency and increasing work effort and self-sufficiency among welfare recipients. In particular, the welfare reform legislation instituted 60-month lifetime limits on cash assistance, expanded mandatory work requirements, and placed financial penalties for noncompliance. With the well-timed economic boom in the second half of the 1990s, the welfare reform seems to achieve considerable progress; welfare caseload has declined sharply to reach less than 50% of its 1994 peak, single mothers' labor force participation has increased substantially, and child poverty has decreased. In spite of these good signals, the welfare reform also has several potential problems. Many welfare leavers participate in the labor market, but not all (or most) of them. The economic well being of working welfare leavers did not increased significantly, because earnings increase was canceled out by parallel decrease in welfare benefits. Furthermore, most of working welfare leavers are employed in jobs with poor employment stability and low wages, making them highly vulnerable to frequent layoff, long-time joblessness, persistent poverty, and welfare recidivism. Another serious problem of the welfare reform is that a substantial number of welfare recipients are faced with extreme difficulties in finding jobs, because they have severe barriers to employment. The new welfare system with 5-year time limit can severely threaten the livelihoods of these people. The welfare reform presupposes that welfare recipients can achieve self-reliance by increasing their labor market activities. However, empirical evidences suggest that many people are unable to respond to the new, work-oriented welfare strategy. It may be a very difficult task to achieve both objectives of the welfare reform((1) providing adequate income security for low-income families and (2) promoting self-sufficiency) at the same time, because sometimes they are conflicting each other. With this in mind, a possible solution can be to distinguish welfare recipients into "(Very)-Hard-to-Employ" group and "(Relatively)-Ready-to-Work" group, based on elaborate examinations of a wide range of personal conditions. For the former group, the primary objective of welfare policies should be the first one(providing income security). For the "Ready-to-Work" group, follow-up services to promote job retention and advancement, as well as skill-training and job-search services, are very important. The U. S. experiences of the welfare reform provide some useful implications for newly developing Korean public assistance policies for the able-bodied low-income population.

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