The pandemic should catalyze a more permanent rethinking of European welfare states given the inequalities it revealed for the most vulnerable groups
BRUSSELS — Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, European governments have invested heavily in emergency measures to save jobs and rekindle battered economies. In 2020, EU Member States allotted around 8 percent of overall GDP to fiscal support linked to the COVID-19 pandemic—considerably more than during the 2008-09 financial crisis—and agreed on the largest stimulus package ever financed by the bloc. While these responses have signaled a departure from the austerity politics of the past decade, they have been mostly temporary and may not be sufficient to mitigate the long-term effects of the pandemic, especially among migrants, young people and women who have been heavily affected by job and income loss.
A new Migration Policy Institute Europe report, ‘Diversifying’ Social Investment: European welfare states and immigrant integration in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, examines the role of welfare policy in economic recovery and looks at how a more permanent rethinking of the welfare state could equip societies with the tools needed to weather future labor market, social and environmental shifts.
A social-investment approach could be central to this, authors Anton Hemerijck of the European University Institute and Liam Patuzzi of MPI Europe propose. Rather than simply compensating for existing disadvantage, social investment aims to give individuals and families the capabilities to navigate risky transitions throughout their life course—for example, by investing in human capital—to improve their employability and social mobility prospects.
"As the pandemic accelerates transformations in the fabric of European economies linked to technological change and globalization, welfare policies that focus on developing, preserving and activating human capital may provide the recipe to balance social protection with economic recovery and growth," the researchers write.
Yet, traditional social-investment initiatives, including child care, active labor market policies and lifelong learning, have not always been accessible to migrants. Greater communication and cross-fertilization with immigrant integration policy—especially with programs and interventions that have developed since the 2015-16 surge in migrant and asylum-seeking arrivals—could make social investment more responsive to diverse needs, while also offering more sustained support for integration priorities.
"Far from being an afterthought, making welfare states inclusive of immigrants and refugees is key to the successful transition to a social-investment approach—perhaps Europe’s best chance to reconcile social cohesion and economic resilience aims in times of crisis and recovery," the report concludes.
This report is the latest from MPI Europe’s Integration Futures Working Group, a Robert Bosch Stiftung-supported project that has brought together policymakers and experts, civil-society officials and private-sector leaders to create a platform for long-term strategic and creative thinking.
Read this report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/social-investment-european-welfare-states.
And all of the work from the Integration Futures series can be accessed here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/integration-futures-working-group.
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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.