On the advantages of a ‘social investment welfare state’…

Here’s a nicely topical post from Niamh Hardiman who is spending a semester in North Carolina at the moment… In it she talks about the the idea of the ‘social investment welfare state’, which may have implications for Ireland as it struggles not simply with a debt problem, but a widening gap in income levels and a potential deadening of social mobility levels we’ve seen in the UK:

New books (1) by Nathalie Morel, Bruno Palier, and Joakim Palme and by Anton Hemerijck show that the countries that invest heavily in early childhood education, in continuous education opportunity, in high-quality training schemes, and in making it easier for women to take part in the workforce,  have both higher growth and productivity rates and less inequality and poverty. An important part of the package is to have high levels of secure benefits as transition measures when people are not in employment or in training. And it seems we don’t already have to be Sweden or the Netherlands before we can start to do relevant things at all. [Emphasis added]

For example:

Remember Sarkozy’s Commission on the on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, prepared by Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz, and others? It opened up the question of what growth is for anyway, and what we count when we measure GDP in ways that prioritized ‘societal well-being, as well as measures of economic, environmental, and social sustainability’. The Institute for New Economic Thinking sponsors lots of interesting initiatives in economic theory and comparative analysis.

And finally, not to state the bleedin obvious, but:

In historical terms, we are still in a very early phase of response to the latest global crisis. We don’t yet know if it will prove to be a turning-point in the dominant economic paradigm. Lots of people are starting to do the necessary thinking. They need to get out into the wider political debate.

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