The sustainability of the Nordic welfare model – high employment and little social exclusion

High employment and little social exclusion are both means and ends in the Nordic welfare model. In this contribution to the large NordMod 2030 project Lisbeth Pedersen and I examine how the sustainability of the Nordic welfare model depends on high employment and low social exclusion. We find that 1) employment is high in the Nordic countries compared to EU28 for most socio-economic groups, but not all, 2) the understanding of social exclusion varies over time and place, 3) the number of persons living on social security is high, 4) discuss the factors and mechanisms policy-makers can influence, 5) summarise the track record of Nordic policies and end by way of conclusion 6) discuss how in particular child family, health and educational policies investing in human potential and resources that may over time give returns in other dimensions, including the labour market, which is crucial for the economic, social and political sustainability of the Nordic welfare model. For more read the chapter Den nordiske velfaerdsmodels baerekraft, the full report Floetten et al eds 2014 Velferdsstatsutfordringer. Ulikhet, arbeidsintegrering, tjenesteproduksjon og likestilling, or check out other NordMod 2030 publications. #nordmod, #nordicwelfareSkærmbillede 2014-11-22 kl. 19.17.05

European Convention Against Poverty and Social Exclusion

How can evidence inform the fight against poverty and social exclusion? What should the role of the European Union be? In my presentation “Social investments over the life cycle: FP7/Horizon 2020 and social investment strategies” I argued that adopting a life course perspective on social investments is a columbus egg. The life course perspective enables insights from different disciplines as diverse as medical science on public health, psychology on personal development, sociology on social mobility, and economics assessing costs and benefits, to inform us about which policies work for whom at what stages and with what returns. The European Union can help accumulate and disseminate such evidence by a range of initiatives, including systematic reviews of interventions, knowledge banks on best practice and social innovations, and informing country specific recommendations with the evidence accumulated. Luckily, we do not have to start from scratch. Already we have loads of knowledge about what works and what does not. It simply has to be brought into a common conceptual framework and to be institutionally integrated in the work of the European Union.

This was my contribution at the Annual European Convention Against Poverty and Social Exclusion that took place in Brussels, 20-21 November, 2014. Unfortunately, the numbers at risk of poverty and social exclusion has risen since the first Convention in 2011. Fortunately, the fight against poverty and social exclusion has gained momentum with the launch last year of a social investment strategy that since has become integrated into the European Semester. Potentially, the fight against poverty can now be informed in the most binding type of collaboration in the European Union. For many exciting contributions to fight poverty and social exclusion, check the website or #poverty2020.Skærmbillede 2014-11-21 kl. 18.41.49

The sovereign debt crisis, the EU and welfare state reform

Special issue of Comparative European Politics online now:

  • A new era of European Integration? Governance of labour market and social policy since the sovereign debt crisis by Caroline de la Porte and Elke Heins
  • National social and labour market policy reforms in the shadow of EU bail-out conditionality: The cases of Greece and Portugal by Sotiria Theodoropoulou
  • From austerity to permanent strain? The EU and welfare state reform in Italy and Spain by Emmanuele Pavolini, Margarita León, Ana Guillán and Ugo Ascoli
  • Conditionality by other means: EU involvement in Italy’s structural reforms in the sovereign debt crisis by Stefano Sacchi
  • ‘Pushing against an open door’: reinforcing the neo-liberal policy paradigm in Ireland and the impact of EU intrusion by Fiona Dukelow
  • Still the sound of silence? Towards a new phase in the Europeanization of welfare state policies in France by Patrick Hassenteufel and Bruno Palier
  • A Framework for Social Investment Strategies: Integrating generational, life course, and gender perspectives in the EU social investment strategy by Jon Kvist

A Framework for Social Investment Strategies – New article

Skærmbillede 2014-10-16 kl. 00.08.19

From 2013 the European Union has promoted social investments as a national reform strategy to increase individuals’ capacities and national economic growth. However, to take full advantage of social investments, the strategy needs a more coherent framework that takes into account the dynamic and multidimensional nature of social issues and social investments. In a new article, I establish such a framework consisting of generational, life course and gender perspectives on social investments. The generational perspective brings out that social investments involve horizontal redistribution, underpin the productive and reproductive social contract between generations, and the increased diver- sity within generations. The life course perspective demonstrates how social issues and social investments in one life stage depend on the situation in prior life stages and affect the situation in later life stages and, possibly, in multiple dimensions. The gender perspective shows how social investments can improve economic and social returns when gender and ageing over the life course are taken into consideration. Empirically, cross-national patterns indicate a positive relation between social investment policies and returns. For more read Kvist 2014 A framework for social investment strategies out in Comparative European Politics, advance online publication October 13, 2014.

The Grey Tsunami?

grey tsunamiWhat causes population changes globally and what are the political, economic and social consequences? Under the heading “The Grey Tsunami” these were the questions discussed in the Danish broadcast company radio program, Verden ifølge Gram, by CEO of DaneAge Association (Ældresagen) Bjarne Hastrup, demographer Siri Teller and myself 13 October 2014. Feel free to listen in.

Scandinavian safety nets?

China_fire_retardant_safety_net20113111501189Activation, conditionality and selective cutbacks in social welfare policies have gained importance in the Nordic welfare model. Together with Ivan Harsløf I document and analyze changes in Danish activation and  minimum income schemes for unemployed from 1990 onwards. For the early 2000s we find that activation was expanded to more benefit schemes still earlier, thereby continuing along tracks set out in the 1990s. However, a a new parallel track of workfare with less welfare for de facto third-country nationals ran from 2001 to 2011, not least the result of pressure from the Danish People’s Party on the Liberal-Conservative coalition government. This track was abolished by a new Social Democrat-Social Liberal-Socialist coalition government in 2011. The new government has reformed the social assistance for claimants under 30 years to a educational benefit with demands of education activity and for claimants above 30 years earlier and tougher work requirements. These recent developments may describe how the dual track is not so much any longer based on ethnicity but rather on insiders and outsiders in the labour market more generally. For more see “Workfare with Welfare Revisited: Instigating dual tracks for insiders and outsiders” and other contributions to the volume Activation or Workfare? Governance and Neo-Liberal Convergence available from Oxford University Press edited by Ivar Lødemel and Amilcare Moreira.

Will Scots vote for independence?

Skærmbillede 2012-11-27 kl. 17.39.04 The election on Thursday 18 September 2014 is a important day for the Scots and the eyes of Europe are firmly fixed on this beautiful country. As a member of the Scottish government expert group on Welfare after independence I will give a talk at a symposium on Scotland arranged by good colleagues at the University of Southern Denmark. Many of the ideas of the expert group ideas have been picked up by Scots arguing for independence such as moving towards a welfare system investing in children and youth to combat poverty, boost human capital and to secure the economic sustainability of the public economy in years to come. If you happen to be in Odense, Denmark, and speak Danish then do drop by for an exciting afternoon, see program. The arrangement takes place in the biggest auditorium at the University and is sold out, but I am sure we can find place for you somewhere. After all inclusiveness is key to welfare in Scotland as elsewhere.

Social tourism and de-coupling rights and obligations

Social tourism was not only the most debated issue in the European Parliamentary Elections in the Spring of 2014 but can also have a decisive impact on national social policy. The question is whether national welfare model are possible and desirable in a EU where still more EU citizens have access to national benefits because of EU enlargements and case law of the European Court of Justice? In this chapter “Social tourism and de-coupling rights and obligations” I set out how the political discussion of social tourism in Denmark and abroad intensified after the EU Eastern Enlargement with new topics, benefits and countries. Then I describe how the fear of social tourism in Denmark which has fairly universal and generous benefits, can be accredited to ECJ case law and larger differences in wealth between member states that has gradually expanded the material scope of application (more benefits) and the personal scope of applications (more persons) covered by EU law. However, the scope of social tourism is limited even when defined in broad terms as EU citizens’ use of social benefits, although there is a marked growth especially in claimants of social assistance and unemployment benefits in later years. Finally, I turn to the changes Denmark has introduced as a response to fears of social tourism and suggest initiatives that Denmark could initiate at the EU and the national level to update EU legislation and keep the national welfare model.

Against the tide in most debates on social tourism a major finding is that there is not much difference in degree of exposure to social turism between countries with a universal welfare system with few links between rights and obligations and countries with a more social insurance based system with more links between rights and obligations. For the Danish language chapter press Kvist 2014 Velfærdsturisme og afkobling af ret og pligt.

Festschrift for the grand old man in Danish social policy

Big congratulations to Jørn Henrik Petersen, the grand old man in Danish social policy on his 70 year birthday. Danish colleagues in the social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities celebrated his birthday with a festschrift and a surprise party together with journalists, politicians, family and friends that have crossed the path of this polyhistor – a person who is gifted in multiple sciences.

14492 Festskrift_Forside_v04The festschrift contain more than 20 contributions, mostly addressing welfare state issues, which has been a red thread running through Petersen’s life. The volume is available from the press of the University of Southern Denmark, unfortunately only in Danish.

Unemployment Insurance Commission

The Danish government has set down a Commission of five experts, including me, and four representatives for the social partners to examine the unemployment insurance scheme. In particular we have been tasked to examine how the system:

* can remain a central part of the Danish social welfare model and the flexicurity model in the labour market

* become more compatible with a modern labour market

* can be simplified and de-bureaucratised

* and how the system can become more robust in a more integrated European labor market

We have 1.5 years – stay tuned:)

For more information see press release of the Ministry of Employment or the mandate: Kommissorium_dagpengekommission pdf.