Family's roles as a welfare pillar: The case of older persons living in extreme poverty in Bangladesh

Owasim Akram, Mathilde Maîtrot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivation: Many mainstream welfare theories developed by social scientists and applied by economists and policy-makers underestimate families' roles in providing welfare to citizens. This is surprising given that the family constitutes one of the main welfare pillars across typologies of the welfare state. Purpose: This article seeks to explore the role of the family as a welfare pillar with an ageing perspective. We aimed to test whether the family serves as a space for negotiations to improve wellbeing and achieve security in the absence of effective formal mechanisms. Methods and approach: Applying the framework of “informal security regimes,” this article draws on 37 life-history interviews collected from older persons living in extreme poverty in Bangladesh. Recurring themes are identified and analysed to explore the relationship between family and wellbeing/security. Findings: We find that family relationships are often central in the pursuit of security. This shows how welfare delivery in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), in this case Bangladesh, is deeply rooted in reciprocal family systems where all members actively fulfil moral and material expectations. Pursuing this collective goal can take different forms relative to each member's physical and mental capacity, position, gender, and age. Building on the empirical evidence, we propose the concept of “relational security” as a crucial marker and shaper of wellbeing. Policy implications: To be effective, welfare policies need to better consider how the conception and experiences of wellbeing and security, especially for the older persons living in extreme poverty, are deeply embedded within the complex functioning of the relationships that can shape welfare outcomes in different directions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12679
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
Early online date17 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Nov 2022


  • ageing
  • Bangladesh
  • extreme poverty
  • family
  • social policy
  • welfare regimes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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