In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section International Social Welfare

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Methodological and Other Issues
  • Nonformal Welfare Institutions
  • Nonprofits and Faith-Based Organizations
  • Gender and International Social Welfare
  • Social Work in International Context
  • International Social Development
  • International Cooperation and International Organizations

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Social Work International Social Welfare
David Androff, James Midgley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 March 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0200


There has been a rapid expansion of interest in international social welfare in recent years. Previously, the study of social welfare was focused on domestic issues and relatively little information about social welfare in other countries was available. Today, journal articles and books on the subject have proliferated, and with the advent of the Internet, it is relatively easy to obtain information about social welfare around the world. This bibliography summarizes some of the most important resources in the field including encyclopedia, handbooks, journals, and books and in some cases, particularly helpful journal articles are also included. Many of these sources address the issue of defining the term “international social welfare” which is still loosely used by scholars. In many cases, related terms such as “comparative social welfare” or “international social policy,” “international social work,” and “international social development” are used. Although the question of definition is discussed in the sources included in the General Overviews and Reference Works sections of this entry, different scholars take different positions on how the field should be defined. Many writing in the field of social policy focus only on government provision while social workers are obviously most concerned with comparing issues of professional practice between different countries. Transcending these narrower approaches, the term “international social welfare” is preferred because of its broad scope as reflected in the following sections. As will be seen, this definition includes governmental provision, professional social work, social development, the role of nonprofits and nonformal welfare institutions. It is hoped that this broad and inclusive perspective will be helpful as the complexities of social welfare around the world are examined. After discussing the most important reference works, textbooks, and journals, it examines different aspects of international social welfare. It begins with a discussion of the concept of globalization which is important for understanding the field and then focuses on the role of the nonformal sector, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations and government. Literature on the gender dimensions of international social welfare and social development are also included. The bibliography concludes with a discussion of international cooperation in social welfare paying particular attention to the work of international organizations.

General Overviews

A number of general overviews of the field of international social welfare have been published over the years. They include textbooks such as Midgley 1997 as well as encyclopedias and handbooks that are intended to survey the field, such as Kennett 2013 and Castles, et al. 2010. The entry in the Encyclopedia of Social Work (Midgley 2008) offers a succinct overview which should also be consulted. In addition, the reference works mentioned below offer helpful overviews of the field.

  • Castles, Francis, Stephan Leibfried, Jane Lewis, Herbert Obinger, and Christopher Pierson, eds. 2010. The Oxford handbook of the welfare state. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199579396.001.0001

    This mammoth collection of contributions from leading scholars working in the field of international welfare state studies comprehensively covers government provision around the world. It also contains some entries on nonstatutory programs such as nonprofits and the role of gender in social welfare.

  • Kennett, Patricia, ed. 2013. Handbook of comparative social policy. 2d ed. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

    This edited collection offers a very helpful overview of the field of international social welfare. It contains many useful contributions from leading scholars and addresses numerous complex issues affecting international social welfare.

  • Midgley, James. 1997. Social welfare in global context. Thousand Oaks. CA: SAGE.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781483327945

    Although published almost two decades ago, this advanced textbook transcended the narrow focus in international social welfare scholarship on government provision by covering other aspects of the field such as professional social work and social development. It also contains a discussion of methodological and other challenges facing the field.

  • Midgley, James. 2008. International social welfare. In Encyclopedia of social work. 20th ed. Edited by Terry Mizrahi and Larry Davis, 475–480. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acref/9780195306613.001.0001

    The short entry in the Encyclopedia of Social Work is designed to provide an overview for those who are not familiar with international social welfare. It traces the history of the field, discusses terms and concepts, and outlines the field’s boundaries.

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