Notes on the concepts and definitions of Social Welfare in India


The terms social welfare is often confused with social service, social reform, social work and social security, and all these term are often used as synonyms. For a correct picture of the terminologies, let us go through the following definitions.

1. Social Welfare

Social welfare term is related with the concept of welfare state. Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as “a system of laws and institutions through which a govern­ment attempts to protect and promote the economic and social welfare of its citizens usually based on various forms of social insurance against unemployment, accident, illness and old age”.


The Encyclopedia of Social Sciences also confirms this definition of welfare state by explaining that the ‘Welfare State’ is the institutional outcome of the assumption by a society of legal and therefore formal and explicit responsibility for the basic well-being of its mem­bers.

The principle of ‘normalization’ is fundamental to the social welfare system i.e. regardless of physical, psychologi­cal or social handicaps, a person should be enabled to live, work and develop in a normal environment.

2. How is Social Welfare Different from Social Services?

Social Services are those which are meant for the normal population and seek to meet the basic needs like health care, education, housing etc. Their aim is to develop the human resources of the country.


Social welfare on the other hand is targeted towards the upliftment of vulnerable sections of the society such as handicapped, destitute children, women, backward tribes, castes, classes, etc. Unlike social services the welfare services are mostly family and community oriented. The term social welfare originated in the Beveridge Report of U.K.

3. How is Social Work different from Social Welfare?

Social welfare has a broader meaning and covers social work and other related programmes and activities.

A social worker is a professional who must wait for his client—an individual, a family, a group or a whole community to take the first step to seek his help in terms of counselling or material aid. But the social welfare worker is not constrained by the self imposed limitations of the professional social workers.


4. Social Reform

Social evils likes superstitions, dogmatic rituals of various forms engendered by lack of proper education and rational thinking, denial of education to women folk, their low status and degradation, their exclusion from property rights, their marriage at an early age, the prohibition of widow marriage, unequal marriages-old-aged man marrying young girls, sacrifice of children at the altar of gods and goddesses for their appeasement and invocation of their blessings for the fulfilment of their wishes, inequities, social injustice, caste-system, the upper classes exploiting the lower castes especially the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward classes, the practice of untouchability, use of alcohols etc. can be eradicated by social reform and movements.

Social reform is the foundation of social welfare as because most of the social legislation and social welfare programme in post-independent India is chiefly concerned with those spheres of social functioning that became the battle ground for social reforms and which provided a basis for the modern social welfare services.

5. Social Security


According to ILO (International Labour Organization), Social Security is the security that society furnishes through appropriate organizations against certain risks to which its members are exposed. These risks are essentially contin­gencies against which the individual of small means cannot effectively provide by his own ability or foresight alone or even in private combination with his fellows.

It is charac­teristic of these contingencies that they imperil the ability of the working man to support himself and his dependents in health and decency.

The Indian State has enacted various legislations to provide benefits to the people affected by the contingencies like industrial accidents, maternity, sickness, etc. Some of these legislations are: Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1923, Maternity Benefits Act 1961, the Employee’s State Insurance Act 1948, the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provision Act 1952, Employees’ Family Pen­sion Scheme 1971, Payment of Gratuity Act 1972 etc.

6. A Brief Discussion of Social Welfare Measures in India


The social scenario in the country has been fast changing due to rapid urbanization and industrialization, with the emergence of information and technology as the major force behind industrial development. The unending flow of rural population to the already crowded cities and towns in search of employment has resulted in serious problem like over crowding, emergence of permanent slum dwellings, breakdown of joint family system, unemploy­ment, poverty etc.

Other social problems like untouchability, torture of women and children are quite common in India. Inequality in term of economic and social status is preva­lent. In order to safeguard the interests of the disadvan­taged sections of the society, the Constitution of India guarantees that no person will be denied ‘equality’ before the law (Article 14).

It also promises ‘right to education’ and ‘public assistance’ in the old age and disablement (Article 41). To safeguard the interest of these groups, some legislation was also enacted. They include-the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (as amended and retitled in 1986); the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958; Juvenile Justice Act, 1986; the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988, the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and

Full Participation) Act, 1995; Prevention of Begging Acts (State Acts) etc. Simultaneously, the Government has undertaken many welfare-cum-development measures right from First Five Year Plan with the major objective of extending preventive-cum-curative-cum-rehabilitative ser­vices to meet the special needs of these vulnerable groups. Thus, the developmental planning has been made respon­sive right from the beginning not only to attend to the existing problems but also to address the situations emerg­ing from time to time.

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