Stream 10: The Politics of Social Investment in Europe and around the World

Bruno Palier and Silja Häusermann

Around the globe, welfare states are changing. This is happening against the background of changing capitalism, a shift towards skill-focused knowledge economies, changing labor markets, high- and low-skill migration, intensifying globalization, deindustrialization, and technological change, as well as new public demands related to “new social risks” such as single parenthood, youth unemployment, or working poverty.

In many countries, policy-makers’ main response to these challenges has been to modernize welfare states by focusing on future-oriented “social investment” policies that focus on creating, mobilize, and preserving human skills. These policies, such as education, early childhood education and care, employmentoriented family policies, and active labor market policies, aim at simultaneously fulfilling both economic and social goals. Yet, the turn towards the social investment state has taken very different forms and has happened to different degrees and at different points in time in democratic countries around the globe.

This stream targets contributions explaining variation in social investment politics and policies: cross-sectional variation in the extent of policy change, as well as variation in the (distributive) types of social investment. Indeed, the existing literature focuses almost entirely in Western Europe, neglecting the fact that many democracies in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and East Asia face similar struggles and have adopted social investment policies, too.

Moreover, most research focuses on single social investment policies and has not analyzed social investments more holistically, nor underlined the differences between various types of social investment strategies implemented by different countries. Accordingly, we lack both a descriptive overview on the types of social investment policies adopted in these countries as well as explanations of their emergence or obstacles to their development.

The goal of this stream is a better understanding of social investment policies in Europe and around the world. We call for papers that explain variation in social investment policies and their outcomes in Europe and elsewhere. Why have some countries focused more on social investment policies than others? What explains the distributive profile of these policies, i.e. whether they are universal, stratifying, or targeted? How have major socio-economic changes like technological change, globalization, and migration affected social investment? What role does politics play? The contributions to this stream should address these and related questions both theoretically and empirically.