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WP5 - Building blocks I: social investment in active labour market programmes and social protection

Re‐framing of active labour market and social protection policies from the social investment perspective: qualitative and quantitative assessment of their coverage, quality and effectiveness;


Participation in the labour market is undoubtedly key to participation in society as well as to securing a decent living for households. In the past decades, however, due to the flexibilisation of labour markets and the erosion of labour protection, employment has lost much of its protective power against precariousness and poverty. In the 2013 Employment and Social Trends in the EU, the EC found that poor unemployed individuals only had a 50% chance of leaving poverty when taking up work. This suggests that there may be tensions between the quantity and quality of jobs, and that simple activation measures do not necessarily guarantee decent work in accordance with human rights. Similarly, the erosion of social protection (either for the purpose of austerity, or informed by so‐called ‘making work pay’ motives) can be seen as under‐investment in the job seekers’ capability and may have adverse effects on the probability of re‐integration. Given the growing interrelatedness between social protection (mainly, unemployment insurance, guaranteed minimum income schemes and minimum wages) on the one hand, and active labour market policies on the other hand, both policy strands will be examined together in this work package.

To do

1. An evaluation framework will be developed that clarifies the relationships between different labour market positions, human rights and capabilities. Mixed teams of researchers, union workers, and people from vulnerable groups will produce case studies of recent active labour‐market programmes (ALMPs) in 8 participating countries. The role of ALMPs in strengthening individual and collective capabilities will be spelled out. Innovative types of intervention such as the EC’s Youth Employment Initiative, social activation, neighbourhood services, social enterprises, etc. will also be examined.

2. Social protection as an investment in human rights and capabilities. Whereas the (social) investment nature of ALMPs is increasingly acknowledged, social transfers ‐ such as unemployment benefits or guaranteed minimum income schemes ‐ are still widely considered as mere redistribution schemes which generate a burden on production and which involve disincentives to work.

Very few have acknowledged the role of social protection in supporting workers’ investment in themselves and their families in times of hardship. This sheds a completely different light on social protection: rather than discouraging work, generous replacement incomes allow unemployed people to keep investing in job search, training, mobility and communication, health, social participation, their children’s education, etc.

In order to supplement our qualitative evaluation, EU‐wide multilevel statistical analyses will be carried out to cross‐validate some elements of the findings.