Social Investment in Times of Crisis: A Quiet Revolution or a Shaken Welfare Capitalism?

This report analyses and seeks to establish whether and how, in the last twenty years, the EU member countries have adopted welfare systems that incorporate aspects of social investment.

The quantitative and comparative study focuses on social investment strategies across 28 European member states. The aim is to map out and explore the effectiveness of different social investment strategies. An overview of macro-level welfare performance indicators consists of a review of available macro-indicators to assess welfare performance in the light of social investment decisions.

Data confirm to some extent the interpretation of a quiet revolution but also fundamentally challenge it. On the one hand, the thesis of a stable European welfare system proceeding in a slow but progressive way is confirmed. On the other, there are no clear trends towards more social investment spending. In particular, there is no  clear trade-off neither between compensatory and social investment spending, nor between social spending for the elderly and social spending for childhood and youth programmes.

– The emerging literature on the social investment paradigm focuses on two theoretical and empirical pillars: 1) the development of a knowledge-based economy; 2) the contrast toward the so-called “new social risks”.

– The report stresses the innovative features of social investment from three different points of view:

  • Time horizons: from the present to the future, from consumption to investing policies.
  • Factual issues: from repairing to preparing, from passivity to activity, from compensating to promoting.
  • Social vision: from the hierarchical model to social poliarchy; from standardised social services to personalised social services.

The use of social expenditure data to equate social spending with welfare state effort raises different issues (methodological, political, institutional and concerning taxation), discussed in the paper.

For this report, the analysis of social investment adopts four different perspectives: total social expenditure and three specific areas of social investment; capacitating versus compensating, spending and the life-course perspective.

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