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Social policy relates to guidelines for the changing, maintenance or creation of living conditions that are conducive to human welfare. Thus social policy is that part of public policy that has to do with social issues such as public access to social programs. Social policy aims to improve human welfare and to meet human needs for education, health, housing and social security. In an academic environment, social policy refers to the study of the welfare state and the range of responses to social need.
In United States politics, social policies are those which regulate and govern human behavior in areas such as sexuality and general morality. Social policies are in contrast to other, more traditional forms of political policy, such as foreign policy and economic policy. Modern-day social policies may deal with the following issues:
- abortion, and the regulation of its practice
- the legal status of euthanasia
- the rules surrounding issues of marriage, divorce, and adoption
- poverty, welfare, and homelessness and how it is to deal with these issues
Social policy may be influenced by religion and the religious beliefs of politicians. Political conservatives as a whole generally favor a more traditionalist approach that favors individual initiative and private enterprise in social policy. Political liberals, on the other hand favor the guarantee of equal rights and entitlements to all people and tend to favor state regulation or insurance to support this.
- Health insurance
- Accident insurance
- Unemployment insurance
- Retirement insurance
- Labor regulation
In most European countries, those types of insurance are made mandatory by law. As a result, for example, the number of people without health insurance is very small, other than in the US. However, those policies are facing additional challenges in recent years, as the population is aging and the number of contributors dwindling, while there are more and more beneficiaries. Social policy is thus becoming an important challenge for politicians and policymakers.
Social policy often deals with issues which Rittle & Webber (1973) called wicked problems.
Rittel, H. & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Sci 4:155-169.
- Wicked Problems. Structuring Social Messes with Morphological Analysis From the Swedish Morphological Societyda:Socialpolitik
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