Big congratulations to Jørn Henrik Petersen, the grand old man in Danish social policy on his 70 year birthday. Danish colleagues in the social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities celebrated his birthday with a festschrift and a surprise party together with journalists, politicians, family and friends that have crossed the path of this polyhistor – a person who is gifted in multiple sciences.

14492 Festskrift_Forside_v04The festschrift contain more than 20 contributions, mostly addressing welfare state issues, which has been a red thread running through Petersen’s life. The volume is available from the press of the University of Southern Denmark, unfortunately only in Danish.

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The Danish government has set down a Commission of five experts, including me, and four representatives for the social partners to examine the unemployment insurance scheme. In particular we have been tasked to examine how the system:

* can remain a central part of the Danish social welfare model and the flexicurity model in the labour market

* become more compatible with a modern labour market

* can be simplified and de-bureaucratised

* and how the system can become more robust in a more integrated European labor market

We have 1.5 years – stay tuned:)

For more information see press release of the Ministry of Employment or the mandate: Kommissorium_dagpengekommission pdf.

smileyBy whom you are born, where you are born and when you are born matters for your life chances, i.e. your chances of getting an education, job, and family. Therefore our public policies can make a positive difference in a lot of people’s lives, in particular children in disadvantaged families. This was one of the points of a  talk “How Social Investments Can Improve Wellbeing” I gave at the final event “Promoting wellbeing and social quality”of GLADES – Good Lives and Decent Societies in Edinburgh, 16 June 2014. Glades is one of a handful of projects that the Scottish government support to find new ways of improving wellbeing. Glades bring NGO’s, charities, social and ecological entrepreneurs together to formulate new visions and ways for Scotland that will hopefully increase life chances and wellbeing for current and coming generations of Scots – that makes me glad:)

Gave a paper “Gender aspects of the Social Investment Strategy” at the conference, Revisioning Gender: Complex Inequalities and Global Dimensions, 13-14 June in Stockholm, which celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the journal Social Politics – one of the most important social policy journal and by far the most important feminist journal in the field. Many of its founding mothers and editors – Barbara Hobson, Ann Orloff, Rianna Mahon and many, many more were there – the most impressive power house of gender scholars and feminist welfare state researchers I have ever seen. Barbara organized this nice and memorable event.

“Support to get people into work, action to make work pay and the provision of a strong and decent safety net for those who are unable to work, should be the focus of the welfare system in an independent Scotland”, according to the Deputy First Minister. Ms Sturgeon was responding to our report from the independent Expert Working Group on Welfare, which outlines a vision for a fairer, simpler and more personal welfare system and provides nearly 40 recommendations for change following independence.

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Click links for more on the government response, the full report, and the list of group members and a YouTube video on the launch.

Interesting to see what the outcome will be of the Scottish independence referendum, 18 September 2014.

 

In May on Tour de Germany presenting a talk “Multidimensional Wellbeing in the European Union: A Configurational Analysis of Disadvantages in EU-27 countries” at:

* Wissenschaftscentrum Berlin, WZB, Berlin, 18 May, 2014

* Social Order and Life Chances in Cross-National Comparison, SocLife, Cologne 24 May, 2014

* Mannheim Zenter für Sozialforschung, MZES, Mannheim, 27 May, 2014

Social advantages and disadvantages tend to come in packages and their distribution vary across countries, in part as a result of different public policies. The European Union measure the at risk of poverty and social exclusion (AROPE) as the union of the set of people who are either at-risk-of-poverty (below 60% of median income) OR materially deprived OR living in jobless households (when in working age). Measured in this way nearly one in four European is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Together with Charles Ragin, University of Irvine, I am working on how set-oriented approaches can help us better to capture the essence of configurations of poverty, intersectionality of socio-economic groups and policy packages. Thanks to many good and critical questions and comments at the above seminars and conferences, we have how developed a procedure for studying how configurations like policy packages (e.g. on the availability, affordability and quality of childcare) is associated with configurational outcomes like at-risk-of-poverty AND materially deprived AND in jobless households. Stay tuned:)

At Borgen (Christiansborg, The Parliament) giving a talk “Well-Being and Welfare Policies for Elderly in an International Perspective” at the annual conference Elderly Days 2014. In brief, the Danish elderly are by European standards self-reporting high levels of satisfaction with life, social ties, trust in other, being able to live a comfortably life, but despite increases of longevity Danes, especially women, do not live as long as their sisters in neighboring countries. The Danish pension system by a large meet the EU pension strategy of being modern, providing adequate benefits and being sustainable. However, as also reported by one of the delegates, this does not rule out poverty among certain groups of elderly that may prevent them from taking fully part in life and even barring them from getting a place in an elderly nursing home. The move from compensation towards prevention and rehabilitation has been a new trend in social care for the elderly and is likely to continue. This qualitative shift in elderly care may be a win-win-situation, i.e. more autonomy for the elderly persons and less public expenditure on social care. However, the qualitative re-orientation cannot fully explain the reduction of budgets and staff and hours of services in home care. Danish welfare policies for the elderly are not only being recast but also being trimmed.