RE-InVEST Newsletter - issue 2/2017
RE-InVEST Newsletter issue 2/2017
RE-InVEST on ESPAnet
Author(s) Michel Debruyne
RE-InVEST on ESPAnetIn 2017 the ESPAnet Conference discusses the new horizons of European social policy in the aftermath of the neoliberal austerity period and the Brexit. European societies have changed dramatically in the last decade. Fiscal consolidation, the 2008 financial collapse, demographic changes, the refugee crisis, social movements, unemployment, and new political forces are challenging social dialogue, solidarity and the European project.
Social policy has traditionally played a key role in addressing emerging social risks, implementing social cohesion and re-building Europe. The development of the European social model has been an inspiration to many other countries of the world. It is a key instrument for responding to (new) social risks and fostering sustainable development in many countries and regions of the world across different cultures, societies, history and economies. The European social policy has regained a pivotal role and seeks to expand horizons and rebuild Europe.
At this important conference RE-InVEST will contribute with eight papers to rebuild a social Europe. Re-InVEST is an ongoing Horizon 2020 research project, in which academic researchers, civil society organisations and vulnerable people at grassroots level from 12 European countries jointly reflect on the foundations of a social investment strategy for a more inclusive Europe.
In this newsletter we publish the abstracts of the papers of the RE-InVEST-partners. These papers will be discussed during this conference and will be published afterwards.
The different papers will be published on the ESPAnet as well as the RE-inVEST website.
The impact of social disinvestment on vulnerable groups during the crisis in Europe (Prof. Ides Nicaise et al. University of Louvain, Belgium)
In the first stage of the Re-InVEST research, 13 local groups (NEETs, mental health care users, migrants, disabled people, homeless people, families at risk of eviction) analysed how ‘the crisis’ affected their capabilities and human rights, as well as their relations with society at large.
The methodology is based on a co-construction approach. Three parties with different types of knowledge and different ‘lenses’ (academics, NGO workers and vulnerable people) jointly analyse social realities with the aim of producing a more valid and ‘shared’ scientific diagnosis of the research object.
Despite small local differences, all local teams shared some common principles such as: starting with a trust-building phase, positive discrimination in the time and support allocated to vulnerable participants, intercultural mediation, use of non-verbal (along with verbal) data collection methods, and linking research to trans-formative action at local level so as to ensure that the project has tangible results for vulnerable participants and empowers them.
The synthesis will be completed by end of August, but preliminary findings suggest the following:
Labour-market policy spending since the crisis: A multiplier of inequality between countries? (Dr. René Lehweß-Litzmann, Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut Göttingen - SOFI).
The paper examines European countries’ expenditure on labour-market policy (LMP) from the wake of the 2008 crisis to the present. It conceives such expenditure as a social investment which, unlike mere consumption, may have a positive effect on workers’ employment trajectories and on the economy as a whole. Inequality, convergence and divergence of LMP spending across countries is reflected against the backdrop of national fiscal and labour-market situations.
The analysis shows that in many European countries, LMP spending on aggregate rose during the observation period (2006 to 2014), while spending per person wanting to work declined. A larger strain on public budgets in the course of the crisis thus seems to go along with reduced social investment in worker’s capabilities.
Comparatively, it is further shown that countries cannot really be distinguished in ALMP- and PLMP-countries, but rather in countries spending much on LMP in general, and countries with relatively low LMP spending.
More than actual labour-market problems (unemployment), it seems to be fiscal capacity which drives LMP spending: the wealthier European countries spend more on LMP both in absolute terms and relative to their wealth, even though their labour-market situations tend to be more favourable as compared to poorer countries.
“Asymmetric social investment” can be considered a source of unfair (individual) competition between workers in the European common market and as a potential multiplier of economic and social polarisation between European countries.
Welfare states in transition bringing light into the black boxes of reform processes. Comparing Irish activation and social housing reforms; shifting implementation paralysis? (Dr Mary P. Murphy, Department of Sociology, Maynooth University, Ireland)
The Irish welfare state, in common with welfare states across Europe, is confronted with a number of crucial challenges. Over the sovereign debt crisis, Ireland experienced significant spending cuts, economic collapse saw unemployment rise to 15% , while lack of investment in housing sparked a severe social housing and homeless crisis. Within the Irish welfare state, activation policy and social housing policy have been subject to most significant and constant forms of institutional reshaping.
This policy-oriented paper is concerned with the black box of welfare reform and the internal dynamics behind two example of recent Irish welfare state change. This paper uses a three I’s framework to trace key ideas, institutions and interests and to isolate the dynamic informing two key policy decisions over the period 2010-2016; the institutional reform of Public Employment Services including development of new quasi markets; reform of private rental subsidies from a residual policy towards a more central marketised model of social housing provision.
In addition to using academic and grey literature to trace and document policy change, a range of qualitative research methods were utilised to gather data. Activation related data was accessed through elite interviews with senior policy makers and politicians, and qualitative semi structured interviews with non-government actors delivering services and/or advocating in the activation field. Data relating to private sector rental subsidy reform was gathered through the Re-InVEST research project which included a series of qualitative interviews with policy makers and politicians, and with non-government actors delivering housing services and/or advocating in the field.
This data has been analysed in a three I’s framework which privileges neither institutions, interests or ideas as the driving force of change but examines the interaction of the three variables across the different stages of the policy cycle. While crisis clearly punctured Irish national equilibrium the impact on welfare reform differs across sectors. The two cases allow an assessment of sector specific black boxes as well as identification of common characteristics of Irish policy change.
A number of possible findings from the analysis are discussed. The Irish government engaged with activation and social housing reforms in the context of loan conditionality under a Troika bailout, however we find considerable government autonomy in policy design and scope. Irish activation policy implementation was however well facilitated by Troika implementation targets and reporting systems that prioritised activation reforms amongst the domestic political elite and within a clear politically relevant reporting cycle.
Housing reforms were slower to implement, driven through predominantly domestic processes they experienced more domestic vetoes and were subject to a strong Irish tendency towards ‘policy implementation paralysis’. Centralised power structures enabled a more consistent implementation of activation policy than private rental subsidy reform which was unevenly implemented across different local authorities. The ideational preference was for enhancing market led welfare provisions, but in both sectors marketization is by stealth without major debate or protest, albeit with differences in the capacity of public discourse to stigmatise claimants.
Social Investment, Human Rights and Capabilities in practice; the case study of homelessness in Dublin (Dr Rory Hearne, Department of Socio-logy, Maynooth University, Ireland)
In recent decades social investment in Irish housing policy has adopted a more marketised and financialised approach becoming increasingly reliant on the private rented sector to provide social housing. This reliance on the private market intensified during the economic crash and period of austerity (2008-2013) contributing to the emergence of a severe housing and homeless crisis from 2013, particularly increasing the number of homeless families and children in Dublin who must rely on the private rental subsidy Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to secure housing
Methodology and data
Drawing on a capabilities framework this paper assesses the impact of the increased reliance on private rental sector for social housing in Ireland on the capabilities and human rights of homeless families in Dublin and draws on recent data collected through the Re-Invest research project which worked in a Participatory Action Human Rights and Capability Approach (PACHRA) with a group of homeless families in emergency accommodation in a Dublin.
PACHRA involved a seven stage action research involving peer researchers working with a mixed group of vulnerable homeless families (lone parents, migrants, Travellers). It involved creative participative methodologies and the exploration of the impact of the housing crisis through a rights and capability lens and the empowerment of the vulnerable families to engage with in dialogical action with key housing policy makers. Further data in the paper was gathered through literature review of academic and grey literature, statistical analysis and qualitative interviews with policy makers and NGOs working in the field.
A number of significant challenges are experienced by homeless families attempting to secure more permanent housing through the HAP system. In particular the wider housing crisis is impacting on the lack of supply within the private rented sector which means that in this marketised approach they are competing with other tenants for accommodation. In a largely unregulated rental sector, landlords are enabled to, and do, discriminate against homeless families, and in particular migrant and Traveller homeless families who are forced to stay in emergency accommodation with no proper cooking, cleaning or family facilities and presenting real barriers to realising capabilities ‘to do and to be’. The lack of capacity to secure housing impacts on ability to plan and to secure others rights including children’s education and social life and adults right to work. Denied the right to housing some families are responding by asserting their right to housing either through individual or collective action. The PACHRA method-logical approach built capability for individual and collective agency.
The paper provides an overview of the outcomes of this research in regards to the understanding the impact on the capabilities and rights of homeless families in Dublin of changes in social housing policy and the housing crisis. It also contributes to the theoretical understanding of the intersection between capabilities, rights and social investment and how each shape the other.
African women facing the crisis in a poor Parisian Suburb (Isabelle Droy - IRD, Jean-Luc Dubois - IRD)
In France, the damage of the crisis appears to be more significant in some urban poor areas, labelled as “priority areas”, which are often at the heart or in the immediate vicinity of big urban areas, like in the Paris region. This is also where the immigrant population of African origin (North and sub-Saharan Africa) is the most numerous, with many single-parent families, and where the social mix is limited. In this paper, we will focus on the impact of the crisis on immigrant women, natives of West sub-Saharan Africa and living in the priority areas of the Seine Saint Denis department which are located in the town of Aubervilliers.
We carried out participative research with a small and recent association (named Avisa), created by women from Aubervilliers, whose main objective is to favour the integration of these women in the French society by promoting in the same time literacy courses for women and remedial courses for their children. In selecting this group, we are addressing three different types of vulnerability, each requiring specific information, which can be then crossed together (spatial vulnerability, social vulnerability, gender inequality).
With the association Avisa, we did qualitative research with repeated focus groups and some detailed interviews. Those interviews, with 14 female and 4 male members, were treated by textual analysis. We focused on their life stories (from Africa to France), their main problem (employment, housing, health, family), the evolution since the beginning of the crisis, their aspirations and the support they can mobilise (formal or informal). To complete our analysis, we also used information from observatories and from large surveys such as the TEO (Trajectories and origins) which provides data on the trajectories of the immigrants living in France and the discriminations related to their origin.
Findings show the feeling of a stronger degradation of the daily life of these women. Material difficulties are a constant cause of worries: unemployment or the lack of job security, difficult working conditions with more staggered hours, difficulties in paying the house rent and even the children’s canteen, difficulties to face administrative requests when you are illiterate. Other difficulties appeared more recently with negative consequences: the subsidies provided by the State to local communities are currently decreasing, reducing the support to the existing associations or cancelling the implementation of specific devices intended for the very vulnerable populations. But, meanwhile, Seine Saint Denis department, due to the dynamism of its actors (population, association, public actors), is often considered as a laboratory of social innovation.
 National observatory of urban policy http://www.onpv.fr (2016) and Observatory of Inequalities (2015)
Enhancing Capabilities? Rethinking European Social Policies from a New Perspective. Towards a normative framework for welfare reform in Europe: a capability and human rights approach (Jean-Michel Bonvin and Francesco Laruffa University of Geneva)
Building on research conducted in current and past European projects this paper develops a theoretical and normative framework for social policy analysis and reform in Europe, based on Sen's capability approach (CA).
It starts with a critique of dominant paradigms of activation, both in the form of "work-first" and social investment. While the "work-first" approach focuses on reducing welfare benefits and increasing the financial incentives to take up jobs, the social investment approach aims at investing in individuals' human capital in order to make them more attractive for employers. Yet, both these approaches present at least three problems when assessed against the CA. First, they both share a common "supply-side fundamentalism" (Peck and Theodore, 2000) that the CA rejects.
Indeed, the CA stresses how capabilities emerge from the interaction between individual and collective factors as well as between the supply- and the demand-side, and thus requires a combination of individual and sociopolitical responsibility (e.g. Bonvin and Farvaque, 2005; Bonvin, 2008).
In particular, public action should guarantee that enough valuable options (e.g. jobs) are made available by acting also on the demand side (e.g. Orton, 2011; Laruffa, 2016).
Second, they are both employment-centered whereas the CA focuses on the freedom to lead the kind of life one has reason to value – a broader objective which may include other activities beyond paid work such as care work (e.g. Dean, Bonvin, Vielle and Farvaque 2005; Lewis and Giullari, 2005; Laruffa, 2016).
Third, in contrast to these approaches, the CA insists that welfare reform is not a matter for "experts" but of public deliberation and discussion to be realized with a wide-ranging participation of all stakeholders (e.g. Bonvin and Rosenstein, 2009; Salais, 2009).
As a matter of fact, the importance attributed to political participation and deliberation in the capability approach (e.g. Sen, 1999, 2009; Crocker, 2008; Salais, 2009; Bifulco, 2013; Bonvin, 2013; Bonvin, Laruffa and Rosenstein, 2017) is a major point of departure from the workfare and social investment paradigms and how they suggest framing welfare reform.
Hence, putting capability at the core of European social policies not only requires to reduce unemployment, inequalities and poverty but also to reinvigorate democracies and public participation. We argue that this latter objective requires that the discourse on rights is reinforced.
We thus integrate in our normative framework also the human rights approach, which has already been successfully combined with the capability approach (see e.g. Sen, 2005; Burchardt and Vizard, 2011). A discourse focused on rights serves to enhance people’s “sense of entitlement” (Hobson et al., 2011) – whereby individuals are aware that they are entitled to certain rights and are able to claim them – as well as their “capacity to aspire” (Appadurai, 2004) – the capacity to imagine a different (better) future – both of which are indispensable elements when it comes to reforming European social policies in a capability-friendly way.
Capability, Collectivities, Participatory Re-search and Social Change (Ortrud Leßmann, ifz Salzburg)
This paper takes a new look at the long-standing debate about whether the capability approach is too individualistic and how best to take account of collectivity. The debate has been summarized several times (Robeyns 2005; Alkire 2008) but it is still ongoing with some recent contributions to the empirical as well as the conceptual level (Godfrey-Wood and Mamani-Vargas 2016; Davis 2015; Hall 2016).
This paper broadens the view by going beyond the papers that stirred the question of individualism and tracing more broadly various strands of the relevant literature. In order to get a grip on the large range of papers a classification scheme is proposed first. On the one hand, the literature can be classified according to how it conceives collectives. Some understand collective in a descriptive way, assigning membership to all people who share certain characteristics regardless of their own view.
For example, Stewart’s (Stewart 2005; 2010) research on “group capability” and “horizontal inequality” shows impressively that group deprivations are lasting longer than individual deprivations by relying on statistical analysis and external descriptions of deprived groups. In contrast to that the well-known notion of “collective capabilities” (Evans 2002; Ibrahim 2006) refers to groups based on voluntary and conscious membership.
In their case, people are committed to the group in question and usually know its members personally. Thus, this kind of collective is probably much smaller than the one referred to by Stewart.
On the other hand, the strands of literature can be classified according to the goals the groups are pursuing: The capability approach is in general mainly concerned with well-being. A major argument for “collective capabilities” is indeed that there are doings and beings a person cannot achieve on her own. Being part of a collective broadens the range of capabilities open to the individual members and will thereby enhance their well-being.
However, Sen (Sen 1993; 1977) argues that people have goals other than well-being which have to do with their morals and with commitments to groups and ideas. He calls these goals agency goals. While there is broad agreement on what constitutes well-being, people disagree on agency goals to a large extent. Groups provide important fora for exercising public reasoning and hence for enhancing agency of their members as well. The literature on collectives acknowledges this throughout, yet, part of it views agency as the goal and part of it highlights the instrumental role of agency.
The writings focusing on Sen’s notion of commitment (Peter and Schmid 2007; Cudd 2014) are examples for the former (agency as a goal) and the works on “collective capabilities” or “horizontal inequality” mentioned before are examples for the latter (well-being as the goal).
The classification scheme is then applied to survey the literature. Five strands are distinguished: (1) the individualism critique of Stewart and Deneulin and their suggested notions of “group capabilities” and “structures of living together”, (2) conceptualization of collective capabilities, its application in sustainable development and its critique, (3) rationality, commitment and identity and its relation to the philosophical debate on collective intentionality, (4) the debate on methodological, ontological and ethical individualism, its link to development studies and social ontology, and (5) the link of capability and Giddens’ idea of duality of structure.
All strands are introduced, reviewed and classified. Moving from theories that described groups from an external point of view and focus on well-being (1) to those that look at collectives built on voluntary membership in order to enhance well-being (2) to those that shift the focus to agency while still having an internal view of groups (3) to theories that more abstractly discuss collectives and their (agency) role in society (4 and 5). Thus, the classification scheme helps in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches by clarifying their conception of collectivity and focus of concern. Partially, the choice of focus and approach and hence the strength or weakness has to do with the disciplinary roots of the arguments.
The third part of the paper uses the classification scheme to analyze the participatory action research on social investment policies done in the context of the RE-InVEST project. The metho-dology developed in the context of the project has foreseen several steps in selecting a target group, setting up a participatory research group, analyzing policies towards the target group’s deprivation and doing some action on the basis of the results. These steps happen to fall in the four fields of the classification scheme: The target groups in the 12 countries involved have been selected on the basis of a literature research and statistical analysis. Thus the target group is seen from an external point of view.
Furthermore, the stated deprivation is one in well-being (e.g. unemployment, mental health problems, migration, and housing problems). The research process has empowered participants, moving in the direction of joint reasoning and agency. Finally, the action part of this research has mainly taken the form of publishing the results and raising awareness of the particular deprivation. Thus the process increasingly prescind from participants’ own situation and moved towards agency for the target group in general.
Although participatory research does not need to follow this exact pattern, it may benefit from asking about the nature of the group (with ascribed or voluntary membership) and the goals in question. Social policy, and social investment policy in particular, is directed towards broadly defined groups. Hence, the gap between the small research group and the broad target group constitutes a challenge for participatory research on these issues. This entails the challenge of taking agency for others.
The concluding section tentatively draws some lessons on the role of groups and participatory research for social change.
Evaluating individual financial capabilities across European countries using EU-SILC data. (Dr. Anna Ruelens, Research Institute for Work and Society - HIVA, University of Louvain)
Although the importance of financial services for social inclusion has been widely acknowledged both at the national and, more recently, at the European level (EC 2008; EC, 2010), “many Europeans – especially those suffering from poverty – cannot access the necessary financial services” (EC, 2010). The resulting financial exclusion of vulnerable groups contributes to social exclusion by restricting full participation of the disadvantaged population in contemporary society. Furthermore, the share of the population at risk of financial exclusion is increasing as a consequence of the growth of unemployment and cuts in social assistance services, which have accompanied the latest economic crisis.
In this study, we approach financial exclusion from the angle of financial capability, based on the Capability Approach (CA), developed by Amartya Sen (1992, 1999). To evaluate the capabilities and functioning of the individuals in the financial sphere, we investigate the disparities in access, quality and effectiveness of financial services with particular attention to the marginalized populations. In our study, we rely on the special European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) module from 2008 that provides information on over-indebtedness and financial exclusion.
In addition, the questionnaire design of EU-SILC allows to distinguish between voluntary and compulsory exclusion which provides a possibility to investigate the counterfactual items, in the Senian perspective of freedom of choice. Furthermore, our analyses of the EU-SILC are aimed at identifying patterns of over-indebtedness and illiquidity of European households.
In addition to the individual and household characteristics, we pay specific attention to determining the contextual policy factors contributing to financial exclusion.
|www.re-invest.eu | contact|