The Slow Road to the Social Investment Perspective in the European Union

  • Shannon Dinan


The European Union has no unilateral legislative capacity in the area of social policy. However, the European Commission does play the role of guide by providing a discursive framework and targets for its 28 Member States to meet. Since the late 1990’s, the EU’s ideas on social policy have moved away from the traditional social protection model towards promoting social inclusion, labour activation and investing in children. These new policies represent the social investment perspective, which advocates preparing the population for a knowledge-based economy to increase economic growth and job creation and to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. The EU began the gradual incorporation of the social investment perspective to its social dimension with the adoption of ten-year strategies. Since 2000, it has continued to set goals and benchmarks as well as offer a forum for Member States to coordinate their social initiatives. Drawing on a series of interviews conducted during a research experience in Brussels as well as official documents, this paper is a descriptive analysis of the recent modifications to the EU’s social dimension. It focuses on the changes created by the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Social Investment Package. By tracing the genesis and evolution of these initiatives, the author identifies four obstacles to social investment in the European Union's social dimension.

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