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The impact of the introduction of social welfare schemes in Ireland, (1930s-1950s)

Cousins, Mel (2005): The impact of the introduction of social welfare schemes in Ireland, (1930s-1950s).

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The relatively few studies of the Irish social welfare system have focused mainly on the forces behind the introduction of social welfare schemes rather than the impact which these schemes had in demographic and labour market terms. This note presents a preliminary examination of the issues and evidence concerning the impact of two significant schemes: the widow’s pension and children’s allowance. Its findings are significantly limited by the non-availability of data concerning, for example, the living arrangements of widows and large families in the relevant period. The main findings are as follows: 1. In those areas for which there is data, albeit imperfect in many cases, there is limited, if any, indication of a significant impact of the introduction of these schemes, for example, in relation to the remarriage rate of widows, the employment rate of married women, the numbers of children in care, levels of fertility or marriage. 2. The one area where there would appear to be an impact is in the employment rate of widows, where the introduction of widow�s pension appears to have accelerated an ongoing decline. 3. In relation to poverty, there is no direct evidence of poverty rates in published data. However, the introduction of widow�s pensions must have improved the financial position of such widows as the introduction of children’s allowance must have improved the financial position of larger families. 4. There is a co-occurrence of the introduction of children’s allowance and the fall in infant mortality. However, despite other studies which suggest a strong link between the two, it is suggested that that the link may be less direct and that it is more likely to reflect concurrent, but as yet, unquantified, improvements in children’s health care staff. This is not to say that the improvement in the financial position of families had no impact on infant mortality. This preliminary study suggests that the published data provides quite limited information on the impact of social welfare schemes, and that in order to investigate this further, examination of original Census material, such as, for example, housing conditions and employment rates by family size would be required.

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