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Pre-distributive social policy: Future changes in welfare societies

  • Date(s)
    30 June 2014, 1 July 2014
  • Location
Pre-distributive social policy: Future changes in welfare societies

Policy Network, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) and the Renner Institute are holding a 2 day social policy conference in Oxford on 30 June – 1 July, 2014.

Hosted by St Catherine’s College and the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, the seminar will bring together academics, politicians and policy experts from across Europe and the US.

The conference will set out to look in greater detail at concerns regarding how states alter the underlying distribution of market outcomes so as not to rely solely on post hoc redistribution through the welfare state, i.e. pre-distribution strategies and how these connect politically with core social democratic preoccupations such as securing the support of middle income and younger voters, and tackling societal inequalities and deprivation.

It will critically explore the extent to which the move away from the traditional welfare state has implications for economic efficiency and social justice. New welfare state models have been welcomed in raising employability but experts have warned about the impact on wage inequality, quality of work and social justice.

After scene-setting presentations on the social policy landscape, distributional conflicts and new social risks, the focus will be on three areas of progressive social policy:

1. Labour Market
Structural changes in the labour market as a result of technological advancement, deindustrialisation and globalisation have led to the rise of the knowledge-driven, service-based economy. At the same time, we have witnessed the increasingly unequal distribution of pay and wages, as well as the unequal distribution between labour and capital further exacerbating gender inequalities. Targeted intervention on the supply-side can be a mechanism to encourage growth-enhancing investment and to get intergenerational mobility moving again.

2. Education and Skills
In today’s globalised economy, pre-distributive intervention in education, skills, parenting and childcare is necessary for overcoming skills-based inequalities and helping children and young people from low income households boost their relative positions. Investing in human capital can alter the distribution of pre-tax income, helping shift towards a more regionally balanced and socially just economy.

3. A New Social Model
A new social model must take into account the challenges posed by new social risks, such as gender, intergenerational, and skill-based inequalities. Tackling these distributional conflicts with a pre-distribution model that aims to counter inequality at the source should be considered as a key policy objective that would maximise the potential of the entire workforce in an ageing society. Nonetheless, it will be necessary to continue to invest in ‘traditional’ welfare states and inclusive forms of universal social security such as pensions and unemployment insurance. Striking the most effective balance between tackling ‘old’ and ‘new’ social risks remains a key policy challenge.

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