We are having our last meeting in the Expert Working Group on Welfare in an Independent Scotland that was set down by the Scottish Government last Summer. We are setting out the challenges, principles and policies that an new government in Scotland may want to consider. Our report will come out in the end of next months. Hopefully, the report will inform the Scottish independence debate in its final stages and, in the longer run, help change the Scottish debate on welfare and welfare policies.
Derived rights to family members of insured workers to social security, health benefits and study grants was essential 55 years ago in the six founding members of the EU that all had social insurance models and a male breadwinner model. Therefore, it made sense in 1958 to include the principle of derived rights to family members in the EU regulation 3/58 coordination of social security for migrant workers. The world today is different.
Nationally, the principle makes less sense as privatization and individualization is on the rise and the male breadwinner model is either extinct or on the decline as women increasingly want returns on their education and as governments wants to increase employment. In the EU, the principle fuels national debates on welfare tourism and the EU as a social union. In this policy analysis, I suggest to drop the principle of derived rights for family members for EU migrant workers. This will kill two birds with one stone, i.e. modernize social protection and reduce unintended use of national welfare systems. The latter is important because the alternative response to fears – real or not – can be the reduction of social assistance, child benefits, study grants, housing allowances and so on. In other words in attempts of the EU Court of Justice and the European Commission to create a more social Europe for migrants and their family members, the prize may be a less Social Europe for everybody else. This would be sad both for the EU and the populations in the EU. For an elaboration in Danish, see the analysis “Tirsdagsanalyse- Velfærdsturisme” in the daily newspaper, Politiken, last Tuesday.
In Latin America one in five individuals is covered by conditional cash transfers (CCTs). CCTs give social assistance to families conditioned mainly on the children attending schools and regular health checks. In the short run the goal is to alleviate poverty. In the long run the goal is through better health and education get more people in work and thus increase social mobility. However, in the impressive PhD of Johan Sandberg, “Social Policy of Our Time“, the scarce evidence is mixed showing some poverty alleviation and higher attendance in schools and healthcare but less evidence on better nutrition, health and learning outcomes, not to mention social mobility. Professor Alejandro Portes from Princeton University was the discussant of Sandberg’s thesis with Håkan Johansson and Anne-Lisa Lindén from Lund University and me on the assessment committee. There seems to be lessons for Latin America to learn from Europe, especially the Nordic countries, on social mobility and child care and for the Nordic countries to learn from Latin America of how to reach out to the children of vulnerable families.
Fear of welfare tourism and a social union dominate European Parliamentary election debates to be held in May. Denmark is no exception. Yesterday I gave a talk at a EU conference at the Danish Parliament, Borgen, entitled “Fear, facts and future of welfare tourism” (Sådan er virkeligheden! Frygt, fakta og fremtid for velfærdsturisme). Birgitte Nyborg was not present, but today her real life equivalent, PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, decided to ask the European Commission whether exported child family benefit can be indexed with the level of prices in the country where the children resides. Reluctantly, Thorning Schmidt is following in the footsteps of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British PM David Cameron that earlier have also announced measures to curb unintended use of benefits.
Gave a talk on the rationale and elements of a social investment strategy for post-crisis social Europe, and, now, perhaps also Latin America. The occasion was a reflection forum on Europe, Latin American and the Caribbean countries in a time of change. The forum was organized by the EU LAC Foundation and hosted by the Representation of Hamburg in Berlin, 6 March, 2014.
After five great years at the Centre for Welfare State Research at SDU, I am changing job. February 1, 2014 I started at Roskilde University at the Department of Society and Globalization. My job is the same: studying welfare states and wellbeing in a comparative perspective as well as the impact of the EU on national welfare policies, supervise students, help start a new international master program, and inform Nordic and international policy debates on welfare reforms.
One of the perhaps most heated EU social policy debate in the UK and Denmark, to mention but a few, concern welfare tourism. The Danish Federation of Employers, DA, invited me to give a talk on welfare tourism setting out the nature, extent, background and consequences of welfare tourism.