International Social Security Review International Social Security Review

First published in 1948, the International Social Security Review is the principal international quarterly publication in the field of social security.

Articles by leading social security experts present international comparisons and in-depth discussions of topical questions and studies of social security systems in different countries.

ISSA member organizations can freely access the complete current issue of the Review in English and previous issues in the electronic archive (since 1967 for articles published in English; for 2007-2013 for articles published in French, German and Spanish) via My ISSA.

Commencing in 2014, the International Social Security Review is published in English only, and abstracts of all new articles are available in eight languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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With the creation of an online publications platform by the international publishing house Wiley, online access to articles published in the International Social Security Review  since 1967 is available to subscribers.

Consult a free sample issue of the International Social Security Review online, or visit Wiley Online Library to browse contents and abstracts of all issues. For further information on how to access the articles please visit Wiley's Librarian Site.

Abstracts (current issue: July-December 2016, Volume 69, Issue 3-4)


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Roddy McKinnon

Introduction: Pursuing excellence in social security administration

This 2016 special issue addresses the topic of excellence in social security administration. For the International Social Security Association, “excellence” is most usually associated with ensuring that the technical processes and administrative procedures that underpin the delivery of social security benefits and services are high-performing, well-governed and sustainable. But it also refers to the covered population’s perceptions of the quality and adequacy of the services and benefits provided. The academic literature on “social security” is immense, but the larger part of this published research addresses questions of social security theory and policy. The critical, analytical literature on social security administration, including that which marries theoretical analysis with the empirical evidence of administrative performance, is thus smaller. A major aim of this special issue is to make a contribution to redressing this imbalance. This is done not only to support and stimulate research that draws equally on empirical evidence and the theoretical literature, but in a very practical sense to better take into account and provide responses to the increasingly complex operational challenges facing social security administrations.

Robert Holzmann

Bilateral social security agreements and pensions portability: A study of four migrant corridors between EU and non-EU countries

The article summarizes four corridor studies on bilateral social security agreements (BSSAs) between four European Union (EU) members that were undertaken to assess their working and the establishment of benefit portability. BSSAs between migrant-sending and migrant-receiving countries are seen as the most important instrument to establish portability of social security benefits for internationally mobile workers. Yet, only about 23 per cent of international migrants profit from BSSAs and their functioning has been little analyzed and even less assessed. The four corridors studied (Austria-Turkey, Germany-Turkey, Belgium-Morocco, and France-Morocco) were selected to allow for comparison of both similarities and differences in experiences. The evaluation of these corridors’ BSSAs was undertaken against a methodological framework and three selected criteria: fairness for individuals, fiscal fairness for countries, and bureaucratic effectiveness for countries and migrant workers. The results for pension portability suggest that the investigated BSSAs work and overall deliver reasonably well on individual fairness. The results on fiscal fairness are clouded by conceptual and empirical gaps. Bureaucratic effectiveness would profit from information and communication technology-based exchanges on both corridors once available.

Gaurav Gujral

Reshaping the social security agency around improved human capital and technology

Social security systems around the world evolved at different times, at different speeds, for often very different needs. But now each country faces a universal truth: their social security organizations must be truly adaptive, ready to deliver a new type of service at a time of constant technological and social change. Each social security system is approaching this daunting task in their own way – a grand social experiment in how agencies can provide a proactive, personalized service that meets their citizens’ ever-changing needs. The results are simply unknown. This article intends to start the debate on what is and is not working, and indeed on how agencies should measure their progress in moving away from the traditional transactional model. The challenges they face are immense. Populations are ageing and social security budgets are shrinking. Meanwhile, the pace of digital change is matched only by the soaring rate of customer expectations. But the opportunities are of similar scale. Advanced technology, automation and new partnerships between public-sector agencies promise a much smarter, more insight-driven service for all. Technology is only one side of this equation. As part of rethinking their entire mission, social security agencies will need new workers with new sets of skills, and for their existing workers to adapt and embrace their changing roles. None of this will be straightforward. Whatever the original purpose of the social security organization, it has now changed irrevocably. But with the right combination of talent and technology, agencies can aspire to a new model: one that is flexible enough to withstand economic and social shock and resilient enough for the challenges that lie ahead.

Shirley Gregor and Brian Lee-Archer

The digital nudge in social security administration

The concept of nudge theory, from the fields of behavioural science, political theory and behavioural economics, has sparked government initiatives yielding significant public value. A nudge is a method for predictably altering behaviour without restricting consumer choice options or significantly changing incentives. Nudges work by leveraging default human behaviour such as the tendency to take the path of least resistance when exercising choice. Government agencies have run many successful trials with simple textual nudges designed to positively influence behaviours such as tax compliance, voter registration and student attrition. This article develops the concept of the digital nudge in social security administration. The digital nudge leverages predictive analytics technology within a digital government framework to support a social investment policy approach. Based on a literature review of nudges within a digital government context, the article identifies examples of innovation within social security administration where nudges are contributing to better social outcomes. At the same time, concerns regarding ethics and privacy are identified as nudges are applied at the individual rather than the population level. The use of data and personal information to drive the nudge process has to be managed in such a way that individual rights are protected. This requirement has to be reconciled with the broader interests of society in achieving affordable outcomes, the parameters of which are determined through the political process.

Renate Minas

The concept of integrated services in different welfare states from a life course perspective

The concept of integrated services is a common feature of current social policy discussions. It is often argued that social support systems have not evolved to cope with the complexity of individuals’ needs. This is deemed true for a variety of interrelated difficulties that cut across traditional welfare programmes and life course lines. This article examines the efforts of integrated services to bridge policy areas such as social policy, labour market policy and health care services for four different vulnerable groups at major stages of the life course: childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. Analytically, the article adopts a framework developed by Valentijn et al. (2013) that allows systematic comparisons. Using mainly high-income economy examples, the article connects key features of a certain policy area with key elements of integrated services. Key features of a policy area direct attention to the function of the policy area, and these are expressed through the framework of “person-focused” and “population-focused” services. Key elements of integrated services in turn emphasize levels of integration (macro, meso, micro level). Central questions addressed are the character of integration efforts for vulnerable groups at different stages of the life cycle and how variations therein can be understood. As a complement, sociological explanations of individual vulnerability, which are separated by causes of vulnerability into basic, conditional and triggering factors, are also used. A main finding is that the life course perspective as such does not explain variation in integration efforts; rather, it is the institutional features of the specific policy areas. These constrain or promote the potential for greater integration.

Raul Ruggia-Frick

Coordinating social programmes: Analysis of scenarios and implementation approaches based on the ISSA Guidelines on ICT

The development of social security policies and programmes raises the need for their coordination to enhance effectiveness as well as to prevent the fragmentation of social policies, programmes and services. Although there are expected benefits, implementing coordinated programmes poses significant technical challenges, which increase the complexities and costs of projects and hinder the achievement of such initiatives. Some of the main difficulties are related to system and information integration (Interoperability) as well as the ability to enforce data security and privacy regulations. To help meet such challenges, the International Social Security Association (ISSA) has developed Guidelines on Information and Communication Technology to support the integrated ICT-based implementation of social programmes. This article reviews existing scenarios, discusses the benefits and challenges of coordinated approaches, and offers models to show how to implement such types of systems while applying the ISSA Guidelines.

Ibadat Dhillon, Jim Campbell and Roddy McKinnon

Investments in the global health workforce are imperative to achieve social security for all

As part of international efforts framed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to extend sustainable and adequate social security coverage, social security systems are increasingly looking to deliver holistic policy responses that meet the different needs of people across the life course. To achieve these objectives globally, not only must the design and goals of social security programmes be recalibrated but significant investments in the health workforce are required. Yet, a fundamental challenge is the current and projected mismatch between the global supply, demand, and need for health workers. A number of critical issues require attention: the need for more and better investments in the health workforce; recognition that the health workforce is not gender neutral and that policies that appropriately recognize, value, and reward women’s work in health are of utmost importance; and that political will at the highest level and action across sectors is necessary to allow the required changes.

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