By Mikko Kuisma, Janine Leschke, Emmanuele Pavolini, and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser
The current coronavirus pandemic provides a “stress test” to the capacity of our welfare states to protect individuals and households from old and new social risks as well as to foster solidarity among EU Member States. The editorial team and the editorial board of JESP have decided that this is a good time for launching the JESP European Social Policy Blog.
The inaugural blog post has already been published and it features a dialogue between Maurizio Ferrera, László Andor, Bea Cantillon, Martin Seeleib-Kaiser, and Frank Vandenbroucke on the COVID19 crisis and the European Union.
We are truly living in exceptional times and so in the first steps of the blog we have decided to focus mainly on discussing the social policy implications of the current COVID19 crisis. In the first instance, the blog will offer the social policy community a platform to discuss national responses to the corona crisis in the various social policy fields as well as to reflect upon adequate responses at the European level.
During the past decades, health-care policies were primarily focused on cost containment and efficiency gains, planning for a pandemic was not a key health-care priority in most Member States. Hence, countries’ health-care systems have been placed under severe stress by the spread of the illness.
With the sudden stop of many economic activities, unemployment and poverty are very likely to increase sharply in many European countries, leading to a significant rise in the cost of social protection programmes. Atypical workers, migrant workers and sex workers have been most adversely affected on the labour market, very often not covered by the various social protection schemes.
The pandemic has been affecting elderly people particularly hard. In many countries (particularly France, Italy and Spain), residential and nursing homes have become environments where the virus spreads quickly and meets the frailest part of our population.
Furthermore, families are in dire straits having to reconcile care, work and the support of children through homeschooling. Many families experience stress as a consequence of being confined to relatively small apartments.
Overall, the coronavirus pandemic poses at least three challenges to our social protection systems:
- to adequately cope with the sharp increase of social risks, particularly health and unemployment, and the concomitantly skyrocketing social expenditure;
- to mitigate the reinforcement of social inequalities across various domains;
- to develop a truly European (Union) response, which will require very large amounts of economic resources and a clear commitment to (economic) solidarity.
As social policy scholars we are called to not just study social phenomena, but also to engage in public debates in order to facilitate policies contributing to more inclusive and just societies. The blog aims to be a tool to discuss and to reflect on developments and to facilitate to learn from each other, and to support the discussion in each member state and at the EU level. The blog welcomes and strongly encourages comments and proposals strengthening the European voice during this crisis.
While the JESP European Social Policy Blog will in the near future focus mainly on providing a forum for discussing the COVID19 crisis from a variety of social policy perspectives, we have a long-term plan in mind as well. As we get closer to a return to “normality”, we are looking forward to widening our focus and providing the space for other relevant discussions on comparative European social policy. In the long-term the focus of the Blog remains similar to the overall aims & scope of the journal. In addition to acting as a forum for new ideas and dialogue on various social policy issues, we will also feature blog posts that summarize and celebrate the research published in the pages of the journal by our authors.
If you have an idea for a post that you would want to submit to us, check first our Information for Contributors section and contact us via the central email address of the JESP editorial office at email@example.com.