Life chances and wellbeing

smileyBy whom you are born, where you are born and when you are born matters for your life chances, i.e. your chances of getting an education, job, and family. Therefore our public policies can make a positive difference in a lot of people’s lives, in particular children in disadvantaged families. This was one of the points of a  talk “How Social Investments Can Improve Wellbeing” I gave at the final event “Promoting wellbeing and social quality”of GLADES – Good Lives and Decent Societies in Edinburgh, 16 June 2014. Glades is one of a handful of projects that the Scottish government support to find new ways of improving wellbeing. Glades bring NGO’s, charities, social and ecological entrepreneurs together to formulate new visions and ways for Scotland that will hopefully increase life chances and wellbeing for current and coming generations of Scots – that makes me glad:)

Revisioning Gender

Gave a paper “Gender aspects of the Social Investment Strategy” at the conference, Revisioning Gender: Complex Inequalities and Global Dimensions, 13-14 June in Stockholm, which celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the journal Social Politics – one of the most important social policy journal and by far the most important feminist journal in the field. Many of its founding mothers and editors – Barbara Hobson, Ann Orloff, Rianna Mahon and many, many more were there – the most impressive power house of gender scholars and feminist welfare state researchers I have ever seen. Barbara organized this nice and memorable event.

Government responds to our new Report on Welfare in an independent Scotland

“Support to get people into work, action to make work pay and the provision of a strong and decent safety net for those who are unable to work, should be the focus of the welfare system in an independent Scotland”, according to the Deputy First Minister. Ms Sturgeon was responding to our report from the independent Expert Working Group on Welfare, which outlines a vision for a fairer, simpler and more personal welfare system and provides nearly 40 recommendations for change following independence.



Click links for more on the government response, the full report, and the list of group members and a YouTube video on the launch.

Interesting to see what the outcome will be of the Scottish independence referendum, 18 September 2014.


Multidimensional Wellbeing in the European Union

In May on Tour de Germany presenting a talk “Multidimensional Wellbeing in the European Union: A Configurational Analysis of Disadvantages in EU-27 countries” at:

* Wissenschaftscentrum Berlin, WZB, Berlin, 18 May, 2014

* Social Order and Life Chances in Cross-National Comparison, SocLife, Cologne 24 May, 2014

* Mannheim Zenter für Sozialforschung, MZES, Mannheim, 27 May, 2014

Social advantages and disadvantages tend to come in packages and their distribution vary across countries, in part as a result of different public policies. The European Union measure the at risk of poverty and social exclusion (AROPE) as the union of the set of people who are either at-risk-of-poverty (below 60% of median income) OR materially deprived OR living in jobless households (when in working age). Measured in this way nearly one in four European is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Together with Charles Ragin, University of Irvine, I am working on how set-oriented approaches can help us better to capture the essence of configurations of poverty, intersectionality of socio-economic groups and policy packages. Thanks to many good and critical questions and comments at the above seminars and conferences, we have how developed a procedure for studying how configurations like policy packages (e.g. on the availability, affordability and quality of childcare) is associated with configurational outcomes like at-risk-of-poverty AND materially deprived AND in jobless households. Stay tuned:)

Well-Being and Welfare Policies for Elderly in an International Perspective

At Borgen (Christiansborg, The Parliament) giving a talk “Well-Being and Welfare Policies for Elderly in an International Perspective” at the annual conference Elderly Days 2014. In brief, the Danish elderly are by European standards self-reporting high levels of satisfaction with life, social ties, trust in other, being able to live a comfortably life, but despite increases of longevity Danes, especially women, do not live as long as their sisters in neighboring countries. The Danish pension system by a large meet the EU pension strategy of being modern, providing adequate benefits and being sustainable. However, as also reported by one of the delegates, this does not rule out poverty among certain groups of elderly that may prevent them from taking fully part in life and even barring them from getting a place in an elderly nursing home. The move from compensation towards prevention and rehabilitation has been a new trend in social care for the elderly and is likely to continue. This qualitative shift in elderly care may be a win-win-situation, i.e. more autonomy for the elderly persons and less public expenditure on social care. However, the qualitative re-orientation cannot fully explain the reduction of budgets and staff and hours of services in home care. Danish welfare policies for the elderly are not only being recast but also being trimmed.

The European Union and the Danish Welfare Model

The second talk today was on “The European Union and the Danish Welfare Model” at the EU conference of the BUPL – Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators. The topic was welfare tourism which is the topic in the debate leading up to the European Parliament election 25 May 2014. Great discussion with delegates.

Scottish Welfare

We are having our last meeting in the Expert Working Group on Welfare in an Independent Scotland that was set down by the Scottish Government last Summer. We are setting out the challenges, principles and policies that an new government in Scotland may want to consider. Our report will come out in the end of next months. Hopefully, the report will inform the Scottish independence debate in its final stages and, in the longer run, help change the Scottish debate on welfare and welfare policies.800px-Flag_of_Scotland

Drop Derived Rights for EU Migrants

Derived rights to family members of insured workers to social security, health benefits and study grants was essential 55 years ago in the six founding members of the EU that all had social insurance models and a male breadwinner model. Therefore, it made sense in 1958 to include the principle of derived rights to family members in the EU regulation 3/58 coordination of social security for migrant workers. The world today is different.

Time for change. Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D imag

Nationally, the principle makes less sense as privatization and individualization is on the rise and the male breadwinner model is either extinct or on the decline as women increasingly want returns on their education and as governments wants to increase employment. In the EU, the principle fuels national debates on welfare tourism and the EU as a social union. In this policy analysis, I suggest to drop the principle of derived rights for family members for EU migrant workers. This will kill two birds with one stone, i.e. modernize social protection and reduce unintended use of national welfare systems. The latter is important because the alternative response to fears – real or not – can be the reduction of social assistance, child benefits, study grants, housing allowances and so on. In other words in attempts of the EU Court of Justice and the European Commission to create a more social Europe for migrants and their family members, the prize may be a less Social Europe for everybody else. This would be sad both for the EU and the populations in the EU. For an elaboration in Danish, see the analysis “Tirsdagsanalyse- Velfærdsturisme” in the daily newspaper, Politiken, last Tuesday.


Social Policy of Our Time?

Child_Labour_Free_Zones_South_AmericaIn Latin America one in five individuals is covered by conditional cash transfers (CCTs). CCTs give social assistance to families conditioned mainly on the children attending schools and regular health checks. In the short run the goal is to alleviate poverty. In the long run the goal is through better health and education get more people in work and thus increase social mobility. However, in the impressive PhD of Johan Sandberg, “Social Policy of Our Time“, the scarce evidence is mixed showing some poverty alleviation and higher attendance in schools and healthcare but less evidence on better nutrition, health and learning outcomes, not to mention social mobility. Professor Alejandro Portes from Princeton University was the discussant of Sandberg’s thesis with Håkan Johansson and Anne-Lisa Lindén from Lund University and me on the assessment committee. There seems to be lessons for Latin America to learn from Europe, especially the Nordic countries, on social mobility and child care and for  the Nordic countries to learn from Latin America of how to reach out to the children of vulnerable families.