Essay on the Functions of Welfare State

3. G. D. H. Cole says, “The welfare state is a society in which an assured minimum standard of living and opportunity becomes the possession of every citizen.”

4. Arthur Schlesinger says, “The welfare state is a system wherein government agrees to un­derwrite certain levels of employment, income, education, medical aid, social security, and housing for all its citizens.”

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It is clear from the definitions cited above that the welfare state is one, which is wedded to the principle of promoting the general happiness and welfare of all the people. As P. Gisbert says, the welfare state is one which takes upon itself the responsibility “to provide social services for the nation to bring under public ownership important industries or enterprises placing certain controls on private enterprise, and to organise democratic planning on a national scale.”

The objective of the welfare state lies mostly in the economic field. It consists in the readjustment of incomes to provide for the less privileged citizen. The state reduces inequalities of income through taxation and strives to increase national production.

Functions of the Welfare State:

The concept of the Welfare State is of tremendous significance all over the world. Irrespective of the type of the government, whether democratic or totalitarian, communist or socialist, monarchic or oligarchic, all the modern states call themselves welfare states.

The so-called modern welfare states perform certain functions to promote the well-being of the people. The type of their welfare activities and the manner in which they undertake them depend upon the nature of their political systems; whether democratic or totalitarian. However, the main functions which a welfare state normally performs may be explained here.

(1) Maintenance of Peace and Order:

The welfare state ensures internal peace and order and provides security to its citizens. It efficiently guards its territory against external aggressions or threats. It maintains law and order and establishes political stability. This reduces constant tension and anxiety for its people.

(2) Protects People’s Rights and Provides Justice:

The welfare state assures for its people the inalienable fundamental rights. It assures right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, equality, property, freedom of thought and expression. It provides justice to all irrespective of class, colour, creed, caste, religion or region.

(3) Conservation of Natural Resources:

In the general interest of the community the welfare state tries to conserve its natural resources against the competitive private interests. It prevents the wasteful consumption of the community’s resources, its forests, fisheries, wild life, minerals, art treasures, etc.

(4) Provision of Education:

The welfare state gives high priority for education. It creates op­portunities for the individuals to develop their personality. It encourages more the weaker sections of the society to come up educationally and economically. Some states like India have introduced free but compulsory education at primary and secondary levels. The welfare state on its own pro­vides for primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities, research centres, libraries, art classes, technical schools and institutes, medical and agricultural institutes, etc.

(5) Arrangement of Public Utility Services:

The modern welfare states construct roads, rail­ways and provide for irrigation, water-supply and electric works. It provides for post and telegraph, radio, television, telephone and other services. It makes arrangement for transport such as buses, railways, aero planes and ships.

(6) Encouragement of Trade, Industry, Commerce and Agriculture:

The welfare state on its own establishes some big industries to promote industrial advancement and also to avoid exploita­tion. Iron and steel, locomotives, aircraft and other heavy industries, big dams, multi-purpose projects, major transport and communication-lines, etc., are often controlled by the states.

Certain industries are nationalised in the interests of the people. Still the welfare state gives enough scope for the private parties and individuals to establish factories and start business to promote initial growth. The state also encourages cottage or household industries and agriculture.

(7) Organisation of Labour:

The welfare state gives special attention to needs of the working class. It makes appropriate labour legislations and prevents their exploitation. It promotes their wel­fare in various ways. It gives them freedom to organise labour unions to protect their rights. It tries to better the living conditions of the people also.

(8) Protection of Old, Poor and the Handicapped:

The modern welfare states have taken it for granted as their main canon to protect the interests of the old, poor, and the invalid. The old and the retired people are given pension, the unemployed and the handicapped are given maintenance allow­ance. Various social security measures are undertaken in order to give the needed protection to all the needy people of the state.

(9) Maintenance of Public Health:

The welfare state provides many preventive and curative medical facilities to safeguard the public health. It makes provision for sanitation, hospitals, free medicine, vaccination and essential energising foods for the poor and so on. It arranges to control deadly diseases like malaria, cholera, small pox, plague, T.B., venereal diseases, skin-diseases, lep­rosy, etc. It runs medical colleges, research centres, training schools for nurses, etc.

(10) Arrangement of Recreation:

The state provides for various means of recreation to its citizens, like films, drama, music, exhibitions, fairs, etc. It also establishes public parks, museums, libraries, playgrounds, conducts competitions to encourage merit, gives awards to the talented per­sons.

(11) Maintains Social Harmony:

The welfare state lays down laws against evil and harmful customs and practices. By various means it tries to bring people with different socio-religious back­ground nearer. It strives to promote social harmony by creating better understanding among people.

(12) Prevents Disorganisation:

The welfare state also tries to prevent or check the process of socio-economic disorganisation. By making use of various means it tries to solve such socio-economic problems like crime, juvenile delinquency, prostitution, untouchability, population problem, poverty, beggary and so on. The efficiency of a welfare state can be measured by its successful attempts in removing these problems.

Thus, it is clear now that the function of the welfare state is not merely administration, but an integral welfare and development of its subjects. In fact, there is no limit to what the welfare state can do for the service of the community. The popular statement state help kills self-help is not always true. Still, the Welfare State is not all in all.

The state cannot interfere in all kinds of human activities in the name of welfare. It cannot prescribe morality, cannot dictate opinion, cannot proclaim new customs and fashions, cannot create a new culture and also cannot advocate new religious doctrines of universal application. The state should know its limitations. It should not venture to do a task for which it is unqualified.

Too much interference of the state in the life of the people would destroy the very spirit of freedom. It was the veteran Indian Sarvodaya leader Late Sri Jayaprakash Narayan, who said in unmistakable terms that “in the present world the state, not only in its totalitarian form but also in its welfare variety, is assuming larger and larger power and responsibility. The welfare state in the name of welfare threatens as much to enslave man to the state as the totalitarian. The people must cry halt to this creeping paralysis…”