Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Forms of Economic Security and the Family

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Forms of Economic Security and the Family

Article excerpt

THE PROBLEM The quest for social and economic security underlies much of human behavior and has led to many structural features of society. It has contributed to the formation of families, communities, and other primary groups which lend economic and social support to their members. And, it has brought about many forms of redistribution, income maintenance, and other social legislation and public programs. This research is concerned with the relationships between the shifts from informal to formal arrangements for economic security, on the one hand, and change in the structural features of the family on the other. More specifically, the objectives are:

1. to identify and explain differences in forms of economic security;

2. to assess the relationships between variations in economic security arrangements and

family culture and social structure; and 3. to identify factors which affect these relationships. These objectives are pursued through the use of data from a traditional society in transition (Egypt) where a mix of formal and informal forms of economic security are prevalent. More will be said later about the types and sources of data.


The conceptual framework for this study rests on the relationships among societal institutions, in this case the family and the economy. The general guiding premise is that the shift from informal to more formal forms of economic security is associated with variations in the cultural and social structural features of the family. The type of informal security arrangements that will be examined here has to do with economic interdependence within the family and includes such things as providing and/or receiving assistance (including financial) from relatives, income pooling within the household, borrowing from relatives, and common ownership with other family members. The cross-sectional data used here cannot arbitrate the issue of causal directions, i.e., whether it was change in the informal security provided by the family that prompted formal systems of economic security or whether the introduction of these programs weakened the informal security support system. Controversy over the direction of causality has become the foundation for deeply rooted ideological positions about the role of government in economic support programs and policies. However, for the purpose of analysis, formal economic security arrangements are cast as the independent variable. This causal direction is supported by those scholars who have felt that modern economic systems are incompatible with traditional informal security arrangements and are associated with a transformation to more formal types of security (Weber, [ 1992] 1947; cf. McKenna, 1988; cf. Diessenbacher, 1989). Of Course, wage-earning industrial employment, in contrast to agricultural work which tends to be more of a household enterprise, provides independent earnings for the conjugal unit and so can be expected to affect family economic interdependence as well.

Since Bismark introduced social insurance schemes in Germany over a century ago, the innovation has become one of the most widely applied in the world. Following the same principle, countries with different economic systems and at different stages of development have evolved varying mixes of programs to provide economic support for workers and members of their families at times of termination or disruption of earnings, which can be because of retirement, disablement, or lay off. These mixes also include provisions for health care and other services. Coverage by public programs for benefits and services is neither universal nor randomly distributed. Statutory provisions are usually targeted to subpopulations who meet particular characteristics. Typically, these include wage earners in industrial and other settings where the numbers of employees exceed a specified minimum. It is important to note that there are economic security programs in Egypt which apply to the self-employed, including farmers and persons in trade as well as to farm labor. …

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