Thursday, 04.06.2015

Preventative Social Policy in Action

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in partnership with Policy Network hosted a conference on Social investment and the future of the welfare state. Titled “Preventative Social Policy in Action”, the event featured national and international politicians and experts, among them the Minister President of North-Rhine-Westphalia Hannelore Kraft and the UK Shadow Secretary of State for Education Tristram Hunt.

In our globalised world, welfare state systems are put under pressure in multiple ways: stagnant growth, fiscal constraints, structural and technological change, ageing population and the transition to a knowledge-based service economy are factors questioning the provision of social security.

The leading questions of the event were how governments can design social investment programmes and adapt the welfare systems to the needs of the future, how to combine globalised dynamic economic development with the workers’ need for safety. In the discussion, best practices from various countries were compared.

Hannelore Kraft, Minister President of North-Rhine-Westphalia and SPD vice president presented the outstanding results of the preventative policy project “Leave no children behind” from her state. The programme combines social, educational, economic and financial approaches to meet the challenges. Evaluation by an independent institute shows that this integrated approach pays off and changes are already visible – for example in decreasing numbers of young people not in training, education or employment.

In most comparisons, the European nordic countries succeeded most in offering their citizens a reliable welfare system. Lisbeth Pedersen from The Danish National Centre for Social Research presented current research on the future of the Nordic model within the project “Nordics and Nordic Model 2030”.

Colin Crouch, Professor at Warwick University, supported the empirical evidence with a theoretical framing. He unveiled the change of social risks from traditional ones such as unemployment, security in case of sickness or care for disabled people to new risks like qualification requirements for a highly segregated labour market or child care to let both parents participate at the professional life. Those new risks demand new political answers and Crouch pointed out that the European countries should look more often to the Nordic blueprint.

The panellists agreed that “work creates work” which in turn leads to wealth and well-being. Tackling social problems at the root does not only avoid social repair costs but also improves the opportunities in the life of the least privileged from the beginning.

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