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Predistribution and Changing Welfare States

26 November 2014
Predistribution and Changing Welfare States

Policy Network and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) are engaged in a research programme on predistribution and changing welfare states. 

The research looks at how states can alter the underlying distribution of market outcomes so as not to rely solely on post hoc redistribution through the welfare state, i.e. predistribution 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 explores 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.

The project kicked off with a two day social policy conference in Oxford on 30 June – 1 July, 2014: Predistributive social policy: Future changes in welfare societies. It featured scene-setting presentations on the social policy landscape, distributional conflicts and new social risks. The focus was 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, predistributive 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 predistribution 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.

The output from the 2014 Oxford conference will be an edited book published with I.B. Tauris in 2015, entitled The Predistribution Agenda: Tackling inequality and supporting sustainable growth (Claudia Chwalisz and Patrick  Diamond eds).

The contributors are: Jacob Hacker, Yale University, Andrew Gamble, Cambridge University, Peter A. Hall, Harvard University, Lucy Barnes, University of Kent, Pieter Vanhuysse, European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Evelyne Huber, University of North Carolina, John D. Stephens, University of North Carolina, Paul Gregg, Bath University, Paul de Beer, University of Amsterdam Karen Anderson, University of Southampton, Alan Manning, London School of Economics, Marius Buseyemer, University of Konstanz, Ingrid Esser, Stockholm University, Sophie Moullin, Princeton University, Anke Hassel, Hertie School of  Governance, Anne Wren, Trinity College Dublin, Geoff Mulgan, NESTA, Ania Skrzypek, Foundation for European Progressive Studies, Rémi Bazillier, University of Orléans and Dimitris Tsarouhas, Bilkent University.

Policy Network will continue its work on predistribution in 2015.


Claudia Chwalisz, Senior Policy Researcher

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