Welfare is a term used for any scheme of a government that aims to assist those in need. Most such assists are financial in nature. Across the world, every country has people in various socioeconomic strata. Those with low to less than substantial incomes require some form of assistance to maintain a certain standard of living. When individuals or families are unable to meet the basic requirements of living, the state or the federal government steps in with welfare.
In the United States, there are various kinds of welfare programs. Social security is one of the largest welfare schemes in the world. Medicaid, unemployment benefits, food stamps and the sporadic grants or reliefs from certain financial obligations are all different forms of welfare. Earlier, all welfare schemes were conceptualized, developed and managed by the federal government. For almost two decades now, welfare schemes are being regulated by the states.
While every country has certain welfare programs, the nature and scope of such programs vary. Some countries are more generous which might risk making them a welfare state. Some countries are more miserly with their welfare programs. Regardless of how much welfare the state or a government is offering the citizens, there are proponents and critics of the concept of welfare. No one disputes that welfare, as an idea, is appreciable but there are largely varying opinions on the extent to which welfare should be provided and if at all it has any positive long term impact.
Here are some welfare pros and cons that are agreed upon by most.
1. Welfare is an effective way for a state or a government to attend to the needs of the poor. Regardless of the economic state or prosperity of a country as a whole, there are always people who need some help. There are some who need medical care, some need the basic essentials of food, water and clothing, the homeless would require refuge and there are many other kinds of needs that can be met with welfare. There are numerous charitable organizations and nonprofit organizations that attend to the needs of poor or helpless people but the state has only one way to play a positive role which is welfare. Not only do the poor need the help of the state but even some otherwise well-to-do families or middle income families that need some help at certain times. There are instances in the past of prosperous families going bankrupt, people with good incomes going broke and people having homes losing them through some bad decision or choice. In all such circumstances, welfare is an effective way to offer some help.
2. From the perspective of ideals, welfare is an imperative initiative. A country and its people are judged by how the poor of the nation are treated. Thus, welfare becomes humanitarian and also a necessity for national pride. But away from the ideals, welfare is essential to maintain peace, security and tranquility. When the helpless are taken care of or when people have their basic needs met, they are less likely to get desperate. When helpless people get desperate and don’t have any choice, they resort to crimes. From harmless thefts to grievous crimes, there can be a number of different untoward possibilities if people who are otherwise underprivileged or unprivileged are not taken care of. Financially weaker sections of society have often been the targets of mafias, organized crime and even brainwashers of terrorist organizations. Ensuring every citizen a basic standard of living ensures stability in a country and contributes to building and maintaining a healthy society.
3. While there are some macro level advantages of welfare, there are a few micro level implications as well. Those who lose jobs and become unemployed temporarily can take advantage of welfare and try to sustain their livelihood till the time they get another job. Without welfare, the recently unemployed may be compelled to sell their home or other assets and there may be little room to prepare for a comeback.
1. The most concerning disadvantage of welfare is the cost to the exchequer. Whether it is the state government or the federal government, taxpayers’ money is used to fund welfare. While the positive result is that taxpayers’ money or the wealth of a nation is well spent on its citizens but at times welfare becomes a tad costly for the state to bear. There have been instances of countries falling into fiscal deficits and being unable to repay loans from World Bank and other bodies because they had to fund welfare.
2. The second most concerning disadvantage that is oft highlighted by critics of welfare is misuse. Many people misuse welfare. False claims are made, funds oft get misused or not properly used, there are possibilities of scams and fraudulent rackets are also not uncommon.
3. Another disadvantage of welfare is that some people may get comfortable with benefits and may not want to work or better their condition on their own. They may continue to live on welfare for all their life and that certainly is an unfair reality for fellow citizens whose taxes are being used to fund the welfare in the first place.