Social Welfare Policy in Post-Transition Chile: Social Democratic or Neoliberal?

Paul W. Posner, Clark University


Chile’s massive 2019 protests indicate a pronounced discrepancy between the country’s alleged establishment of social democracy and the public’s perception of pervasive inequity. To understand this discrepancy, this analysis evaluates the extent to which Chilean social welfare policy conforms to social democratic norms of promoting solidarity, equity, and universalism. Analysis of poverty reduction, pension, health care, and education policy demonstrates that Chile’s center-left governments succeeded in mitigating some of the more extreme elements of the social welfare policies inherited from the Pinochet regime. However, they failed to reverse their underlying logic, which reinforces stratification and inequity and undermines incentives for the cultivation of solidarity among the working and middle classes. As a result, social welfare policy in Chile continues to resemble the neoliberal welfare regime implemented by the Pinochet dictatorship while the establishment of a social democratic welfare regime remains an aspiration for present and future leftist governments to realize. © The Author(s) 2023.

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