SP332      Half Unit
Social Security Policies

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Iva Tasseva OLD.2.35


This course is available on the BSc in International Social and Public Policy, BSc in International Social and Public Policy and Economics, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

This course is only available to third year undergraduate students.

Course content

The course analyses the purpose, design and impact of social security policies, meaning policies that protect and support household income at times when income from the labour market does not suffice. The need for social security arises both from demographic factors that affect nearly everyone during their life course - childhood, parenthood, old age - and from risk factors that end up affecting only some - unemployment, sickness and disability.

The course takes a comparative approach, examining differences in the design of social security policies across welfare regimes and drawing on examples from different countries. Students will develop an understanding of the challenges and trade-offs that arise in designing social security policies to meet multiple goals, will further their knowledge about the ways systems function in practice, and will develop the tools for assessing the structure and effectiveness of social security in any given country. The course will consider how successfully social security systems are adapting to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, including an ageing population, migration, and the changing nature of employment brought about by rapid technological change. The course will also look at the role of social security in protecting household incomes in times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the examples in the lectures and readings relate to higher- and middle-income countries, but many of the issues covered are also relevant in countries where social security systems are less developed. Students will be encouraged to further their understanding of social security in their country of origin, or another country of their choice, and to draw on this knowledge in classes. 


Courses in Social Policy follow the Teaching Model outlined on the following page: https://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/Current-Students/teaching-in-the-department-of-social-policy.

All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Michaelmas and/or Lent terms". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person lectures and in-person classes.

This course is taught in Lent Term.

Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course.

Formative coursework

Students will write one essay during LT, and will receive feedback in preparation for the summative assessment.

Indicative reading

  • R Walker (2005) Social Security and Welfare: Concepts and Comparisons. Open University Press.
  • J Hills (2015) Good Times, Bad Times: The Welfare Myth of Them and Us. The Policy Press.
  • J Millar and R Sainsbury (2018) (eds) Understanding Social Security, Third Edition. The Policy Press.
  • P Spicker (2011) How Social Security Works: An introduction to benefits in Britain. The Policy Press
  • J Kvist et al (2012) Changing Social Equality: The Nordic Welfare Model in the 21st Century. The Policy Press. 
  • N Barr and P Diamond (2009) Pension Reform: A Short Guide. Oxford University Press.
  • M Frolich et al (2015) Social Insurance, Informality and Labor Markets: How to Protect Workers While Creating Good Jobs. Oxford University Press.

An extended reading list will be provided, with specific readings for each week's topic.


Essay (100%, 2500 words) in the LT.

The essay will require students to demonstrate their ability to apply the knowledge and understanding they have gained on the course to evaluate the design and impact of policies in different countries.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2021/22: 14

Average class size 2021/22: 7

Capped 2021/22: Yes (15)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication