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Governments in developed countries have long used, directly or indirectly through their tax systems, policies that subsidise or otherwise encourage the population at large to acquire assets such as financial savings, home ownership, retirement funds, education (human capital) or business capital. These policies seldom reach the poor. In fact, for the poor these policies often do not stimulate saving but rather discourage it. However, the evidence reported in this book is that the poor want to save, and can do so in modest amounts. In fact, they will do so, often with sacrifices greater than either policy makers or the more well-off might imagine. Extending asset-building policies to the poor can represent an effective attack on both poverty and economic and social alienation of the poor, because it has positive welfare effects that income support alone cannot provide.
This book establishes the context for a fruitful debate on the merits and demerits of asset building for the poor by setting out the basic ideas involved in asset-building programmes and proposals. It also outlines the social policy advantages that their proponents claim, and documents what the existing programmes and demonstration projects look like. Contact the author at Antonella.Noya@oecd.org
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