The coming of age of a mature welfare regime and the challenge of care: Labour market transformations, second demographic transition and the future of social protection in Uruguay

Uruguay has a mature and robust welfare state by Latin American standards. The first Latin American welfare state, as it was termed by Pendle (1954) is also the one that spends more than almost any other welfare state in Latin America in GDP terms, as a proportion of total expenditure and in per-capita terms. Yet this is also an old and rigid welfare state, which has increasingly become less capable of confronting the type, amount and distribution of social risk. This inadequacy of the old welfare state is due in part to its own problems regarding issues of efficacy, efficiency and coordination. It is also linked to a process of increasing demands in a context of limited, though expanded, resources. But the central reason behind the decline of the welfare state is due, as we will argue in this paper, to the fact that both families and labor markets have changed dramatically in Uruguay. These changes have created new social problems, which have not been met by the traditional system of social policies that was structured on the genotype of the continental Bismarckian model with its contributory bias for financing and entitlements, its emphasis on cash transfers and its orientation towards the nuclear male breadwinner family model.