How wealth matters for social policy. Introducing the Journal of European Social Policy special issue on social policy and wealth

Ive Marx and Brian Nolan

Much of the rapidly growing scholarship on wealth understandably focuses on the top because that is where the bulk of wealth is held. This is true even in countries with comparatively equal income distributions and extensively redistributive welfare states. Yet even if assets are concentrated among the wealthy, they also matter a great deal for people who are less well off. Some people who are identified as poor or financially needy purely on the basis of income have meaningful assets, but many do not. Whether they have any such assets, or stand to inherit them in the future, can make a critical difference.

The 2021 special issue of the Journal of European Social Policy looks at how wealth matters for social policy scholarship. All the articles included in the special issue shed an innovative light on wealth in relation to a range of topics relevant for social policy researchers.

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From Kafka to Kafka: EU Citizenship and National Welfare Bureaucracies

by Dion Kramer and Anita Heindlmeier

Conceived in Maastricht almost thirty years ago, EU citizenship was initially thought of as a mere symbolic addition to existing rights. In the following decades, interventions by the European Court of Justice led many to believe that EU citizenship could emerge as a truly fundamental status capable of conferring concrete social rights to EU citizens crossing borders within the European Union. This promise of a social citizenship beyond the nation-state is currently less tenable. The aftermath of the Great Recession and Brexit have shown the limits of EU citizenship as a status delivering to those most in need of its protection.

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Care loops and everyday mobilities in pandemic times

by Lise Widding Isaksen and Lena Näre

The Covid-19 pandemic made the socio-economic importance of care loops and everyday mobilities very visible. ‘Care loops’ is a concept coined to capture the routine, daily practices and micro-mobilities of care that create loops between the home, the workplace, places of child or elder care, schools, and leisure activities. In pandemic times, parents’ labour market participation and balancing of work and family were re-organized and privatized to contain the spreading of coronavirus. Consequently, boundaries between the private and the public became blurred, and new socio-spatial practices emerged.

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Automation and workfare support

By Zhen Im and Kathrin Komp-Leukkunen

Do automation-threatened workers support workfare? As automation permeates the workplace, this question becomes increasingly relevant. Although automation-threatened workers prefer more generous income redistribution to compensate for potential economic loss, we know less about their views on workfare. This gap is concerning due to changes in social policy orientation among European governments under the pressure of fiscal austerity.

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Social investment policies that women want

By Hanna Schwander and Julian Garritzmann

What kind of welfare state do women want? Despite much progress in the strive for equal opportunities between women and men in modern societies, women still face more and different social and economic risks than men. They are more likely to be poor in old age, in particular after a divorce, more likely to work in atypical employment, and more likely to shoulder the double burden of care and paid work. The welfare state plays a crucial role in mitigating these risks. Over the last decade, policy-makers have taken a new approach to combat risks. Instead of passively compensating citizens in the event of misfortune, as the traditional welfare state does, the social investment welfare state centers on fostering human skills and capabilities. Its policies, such as childcare provision, education, and active labor market policies, aim to increase the employability of citizens and to help them to find “good jobs”.

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Elder care and paid work: Gender differences in the relationship between unpaid elder care work and employment in Bulgaria

by Mieke Meurs and Lisa Giddings

Covid-19 has shown a bright light on the unequal burden of care on women and the impact of this burden on women’s wellbeing. The increase in household work, childcare, homeschooling, and the care of older adults, which under normal circumstances is disproportionately born by women, has been exacerbated in the pandemic as “Covid took a crowbar into gender gaps and pried them open”. This is taking an economic and emotional toll. According to McKinsey Global Institute, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable in Covid-19 than men’s, and while women comprise 39 percent of global employment, but they account for 54 percent of job losses. Research in the United States showed that among mothers of children under 18 years of age, 57 percent are experiencing increased stress due to the coronavirus outbreak, compared 32 percent of fathers.

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Female-breadwinner families on the breadline

By Helen Kowalewska and Agnese Vitali

Since the 1990s, there has been a rise in the number of households in which women are working more hours than their male partners across the UK and other advanced economies. Female breadwinners are often stereotyped as career-oriented, empowered, and high-earning women. However, our study suggests this is often not the case.

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What can public opinion towards a universal basic income teach us about its likely political future?

By Tim Vlandas

Why care about the politics of UBI?

The idea of giving a universal and unconditional income to everyone is not new, but it has recently attracted more attention during the covid-19 crisis. While there has been a long-standing debate in academic and policy making circles about the normative merits and economic effects of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), this does not tell us about the likelihood of a UBI being introduced.

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When inclusive measures expose cracks: The Nordic Social Protection in times of crisis

By Trine P. Larsen and Anna Ilsøe

The Nordic economies were – similar to the rest of Europe – hit hard by the Corona pandemic with historical drops in GDP and rising unemployment in the first two quarters of 2020. Non-standard workers were particularly hard hit. Many worked in the most crisis-ridden sectors such as tourism, hotel and restaurant. To help companies and workers, including non-standard workers, to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, the Nordic governments launched more than 130 ad hoc relief packages and amendments in their social protection schemes, often in close collaboration with social partners and with broad support of other political parties. However, certain groups, notably temporary employed, entrepreneurs, freelancers and part-time workers with few hours continued to fall through the cracks in the system despite the ongoing adjustments of the unprecedented policy responses, and more so in some Nordic countries than others.

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Care, Caring and Social Policy in COVID-19 Times

By Mary Daly

If nothing else, the COVID-19 virus invites us to think big and reconsider our lives and our world. In this context, I want to suggest the benefits of thinking about the pandemic through the concept of care.

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