16. Social investment

Nathalie Morel, Centre d’études européennes, Sciences Po, Paris, France, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Joakim Palme, Department of Government, Uppsala University, Sweden, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Since the late 1990s, ‘social investment’ (SI) has appeared in the policy discourse of international and European organisations, as well as on the policy agenda of several governments across Europe and elsewhere. As a strategy that aims to combat new social risks while enhancing economic performance, the SI perspective seems to have appealed to a variety of governments. Indeed, policy analyses show how the notion functions as somewhat of a ‘catchall’ strategy. This is true also on the theoretical side, where SI is both over-determined on the ideational level, and under-conceptualized.

Contributions are encouraged on the following themes:

1. The political economy of social investment:

Given the complex agenda of underlying motives behind the SI perspective (social, economic, demographic, political), an analysis of the political economy of SI seems warranted: Who are the actors likely to promote SI policies? Where might the political mobilisation for a SI approach come from? What are the political and institutional barriers to implementing a SI approach? What are the cleavages that such an approach might raise? How does the future-oriented nature of the SI perspective affect policy-making and decisions?

2. Cross-national analysis of policies and outcomes:

There a few systematic comparative empirical analyses of the effects of SI policies, partly reflecting a lack of cross-national data that can adequately capture policy developments and their outcomes. How can one distinguish, conceptually and empirically, between investment-oriented social spending and non-investment social spending? How can one measure the impact of policies designed to produce benefits in the future? And how effective are social investment policies in reconciling equity with growth?

3. A critical assessment:

How coherent are the social investment ideas? What are the ambiguities or contradictions and what may be the risks associated with this perspective? Is SI an elite strategy? Is it a ‘good quality job’ or a ‘high pressure job’ strategy. 

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