Social Policy

… a core concept in Socioeconomic and Political Context and Atlas105.

Concept description

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Social Work defines Social Policy as “those public policies that address the social (including the sociopolitical, sociocultural, and socioeconomic) conditions of a country’s citizenry.”

The authors, Michael Shier and John Graham (2014, reference below), describe the evolution of social policy in a specific country:

“In Canada, the primary focus of legislation aimed at addressing the social condition of Canadians has tended to focus on issues of minority status, income inequality, labor market attachment, housing, child care and support, immigration, and health care. Throughout Canadian history, the social policy framework has been composed of efforts to address the sociopolitical rights of marginalized segments of the population (such as laborers, Aboriginal people and other visible minority populations, women, disabled people, and sexual minorities), along with addressing the negative conditions in which people live through the creation of national and provincial programs of social support (such as community programs of support directed toward new immigrants or disabled people) and economic support (such as unemployment insurance or family allowance payments).

“Beyond ethnoracial minority status, Aboriginal status, and language rights, the women’s rights and labor movements have been two other dominant factors shaping the direction of social policy and social welfare in Canada.

“Nonprofit organizations and voluntary sector actors are becoming instrumental in alleviating long-lasting negative social conditions such as poverty, homelessness, un- and underemployment, domestic violence, addictions, and mental illness, among others. This situation is somewhat reminiscent of the preinstitutional era. However, there are some differences. The government is now a fundamental actor in providing the funding for these programs and initiatives within local communities.”

A recent comparison of key social policy indicators among OECD countries can be found in the OECD’s 2018 publication, Social Policy for Shared Prosperity – How does your country compare?

Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of the Socioeconomic Context for Politics and Policy (core topic) in Socioeconomic and Political Context and Atlas105.


Michael L. Shier and John R. Graham (2014), Social Policy in Canada, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Social Work. June 2014, at, accessed 4 December 2018.

OECD (2018), Social Policy for Shared Prosperity – How does your country compare?, Policy Forum and Ministerial Meeting on Social Policy, 14-15 May 2018, Montréal, Canada, at, accessed 4 December 2018.

Page created by: Alec Wreford and Ian Clark, last modified on 4 December 2018.

Image: OECD, Social Policy for Shared Prosperity, at, accessed 4 December 2018.