What role should social investment play in the sustainability agenda?

What role should social investment play in the sustainability agenda?

canary wharf

Social investment refers to approaches that seek to strengthen people’s capacity to participate fully in employment and social life, to prepare them for the requirements of a fast-changing society, and, through this “active inclusion”, to avoid long-term dependency on assistance.

It involves an emphasis on education, quality childcare, healthcare, training, access to placement services for accessing the labour market, and rehabilitation. The European Commission adopted the Social Investment Package in February 2013, calling on Member States to prioritise social investment of this type in reforming their welfare policies.

The social investment agenda has a major contribution to make to the shift to sustainable societies, by virtue of its insistence on more inclusive societies built on a better work and family life balance, and its focus on strengthening the capacity of all, children and adults alike, to learn and constantly renew their skills. But a wedge may be emerging between the shift to more sustainable lifestyles on the one hand, and, on the other, an expectation that the growth economy should deliver wellbeing through work and employment-based social integration.

The EU cannot succeed in its shift to sustainability without taking into account the demographic challenge and the need to finance social policies: this is in part why such policies should be active investments in the future. Meanwhile, the reform of European welfare states and the shift towards social investment cannot ignore fundamental questions about the ecological limits of growth, the relationship of material affluence to subjective perceptions of well-being, or the impact of status competition on the "needs" of consumers.

  • May the two agendas be better aligned with one other?
  • Where exactly may incompatibilities exist, and how could such incompatibilities be addressed?

Read more:

Presentation to EU5P conference: How can social innovations and new democratic practices contribute to the transition? by Tom Dedeurwaerdere, Olivier De Schutter and Marc Maesschalck.
Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020, European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions
Europe: The Social Challenge. Defining the Union's social objective is a necessity rather than a luxury, by Frank Vandenbroucke, European Social Observatory, Opinion Paper No. 11 (July 2012)
Social Investment and the Euro Crisis: The Necessity of a Unifying Social Policy Concept, by Anton C. Hemerijk and Frank Vandenbroucke, Intereconomics, No. 4 (2012), ZWB - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics
A European Social Union: Why we Need it, What it Means, Frank Vandenbroucke, Rivista Italiana di Poltiche Pubbliche, 2/2013, pp.221-247.