Welfare systems in OECD countries have been under increasing pressure to enhance the efficiency of public services and to align social spending with available resources. To reconcile the costs of social programmes with budgetary constraints, two well-known but unpopular options are available: increase in direct or indirect taxation, or/and cuts in social benefits in absolute or relative terms, as compared to economic trends. There are only rare examples, in recent years, of across the board cuts in public spending: Netherlands did for disability and unemployment benefits between 1983 and 1987, and Ireland and Belgium for unemployment benefits in 1983 and 1987, respectively. Most other countries have achieved similar results through indirect means such as restricting entitlements to benefits, as in many southern European countries but also in Belgium and Denmark. Since the mid 1980s, efforts to curb social expenditure have been common in all western market economies in the ECE region and included the reorganization of state-provided services, stricter controls on public expenditure, privatization and the introduction of market mechanisms.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.