Since its creation in 1992, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy has worked to modernize Canada’s social security system. We have made the case for major changes not only to individual social programs, but also to the basic structures and functions ? the â€˜architecture’, to use the current vogue term ? of social policy.
This paper advances our work on the modernization agenda in a large area of Canadian social policy that has for the most part defied successful reform ? income security programs and supportive services for working-age adults, which Caledon has dubbed â€˜adult benefits.’ The first part of the paper explains why current programs ?especially welfare and Employment Insurance, the two core adult benefits ? fail to meet the needs of working-age Canadians, and argues that fundamental and comprehensive reform is required.
The second part offers our thinking on how to build a new architecture for adult benefits.Â
The Modernization Agenda
Canada must modernize its social security system to meet the heavy demands of our changing economy, society and political system. Conceived in the 1930s and 1940s and built largely in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, our social programs require radical rethinking, reconstruction and (because some parts were never built) construction: We need a new â€˜architecture’ of social policy for the 21st century.
A core tenet of the modernization argument is that building sound social infrastructure is essential for a robust economy as well as social justice: Strong social programs can contribute to a nation’s economic strength, productivity and international competitiveness.