Social investment or workfare policies? Examining Spanish and Portuguese youth unemployment policies before and after the world economic crisis in 2008

Hericks, E. (2013) Social investment or workfare policies? Examining Spanish and Portuguese youth unemployment policies before and after the world economic crisis in 2008.

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Abstract:With youth unemployment becoming an ever growing problem in Spain and Portugal, the goal of this study is to determine whether, and, if yes, to what extent the two governments changed their policy strategies, and introduced policy reforms, towards the problem of youth unemployment with the beginning of the world economic crisis in 2008 and thus may find an effective way to fight this problem. The research question dealt with in this study is as follows: To what extent did the governments of Spain and Portugal change their policy strategies regarding youth unemployment with the beginning of the world economic crisis in 2008? More explicitly, I would like to discuss the dichotomy of social investment versus workfare policies within the Spanish labour market policies and especially policies directed at youth unemployment, compared to the once in Portugal. I am interested in which direction and to which extent, from the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 on, the two governments changed their social policies directed at tackling the problem of youth unemployment. Consequently, two sub-questions arise. The first sub-question has the aim to clarify which of the two policy strategies the two countries pursued before the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, to be able to say that a change indeed took place. 1. Which policy strategies regarding youth unemployment, either social investment or workfare policies or neither of both, did the two countries mainly rely on before the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008? The second sub-question is to analyse whether and how a change in policy strategy in Spain and Portugal has taken place after the beginning of the economic crisis and in what direction the policy strategies changed. 2. Which policy strategies regarding youth unemployment, either social investment or workfare policies or neither of both, did the two countries mainly rely on after the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008? Social investment policies mainly have two aims. First of all, to modernize the welfare state in order to be able to address new risks which occur within the contemporary society. Secondly, they try to ensure financial and economic stability within the society by investing in people’s capabilities (Vandenbroucke, Hemerijck, & Palier, 2011). That this is necessary is shown by the fact that, due to the economic crisis, the youth unemployment rate, where youth include persons of an age between 15 and 24, in the OECD area rose by 6 %, to 19% in the two years from 2007 to 2009 (Scarpetta, Sonnet, & Manfredi, 2010). Thus, investing in human capital and enhancing peoples’ capabilities is important, as unemployment risks are increasing, especially for unskilled workers (Vandenbroucke, et al., 2011). Moreover, new social risks are occurring within the post-industrial societies. These include ‘rapid skill depletion, reconciling work and family life, caring for frail relatives, and inadequacy of social security coverage’ (Vandenbroucke, et al., 2011, p. 3). These new social risks could also be prevented by increasing in human capital. Within Europe the social investment strategy was introduced with the Lisbon European Council in March 2000. It was seen as a new strategic goal for social policy making within the European Union. The new approach for social policy making across Europe should be the ‘Open-Method of coordination (OMC)’ which is based on the voluntary co-operation of the member states of the European Union. However, Van-den-broucke and Vleminckx (2011) claim that the social investment strategy was not quite successful, as, although unemployment may have decreased, poverty has not decreased within the Union. Thus they claim that the transition from the old distributive welfare state system to the new social investment welfare state was more difficult than expected. Thus, for example, social investment should not be seen as the only pillar within the welfare state, but that an investment strategy and a protection strategy act as complementary pillars that mutually reinforce each other. Moreover, it is claimed that the OMC has not been quite successful, as there has not been a single consistent approach within all member states of the European Union, but that all countries pursued their own social policy strategies (Vandenbroucke & Vleminckx, 2011). Consequently, one can say that within the European Union, the social investment strategy has admittedly been implemented, but that it was not as successful as anticipated.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:European Studies BSc (56627)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/63786
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