Social Support and Activation Policies for Families at Risk in Five European Countries
Recent changes in social structures and social policies in European societies have increased the risk of social exclusion for disadvantaged social groups. In the planned project the focus is on families at risk, especially on: (1) families with unemployed providers (in particular long-term unemployed and social assistance recipients), (2) families in which parents have low qualifications, (3) lone parent families, (4) families with low wage earners. Families face higher risks than single persons or couples and have higher needs, because they have to maintain dependent children and to fulfil additional caring responsibilities. Moreover, they cannot as easily adapt to changing labour market conditions. Therefore the mix of social support and activation policies is of particular relevance for families: which policy package provides for both social inclusion and adequate income for families at risk? This question will be studied by comparing Germany with four other European countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Great Britain). These countries have all introduced major social and labour market policy reforms in recent years, but their policy packages show different combinations of social support and activation. Both Denmark and the Netherlands have emphasized activation, but supportive family policy is more developed in Denmark. France and Germany have only recently started with activation policies, but family policy in France is still stronger. Great Britain so far is characterized by strong workfare policies and reluctant family policy.
In 2012 the analysis of family risk groups based on EU-SILC data was almost completed, thus preparing for the second analytical stage, the comparison between risk and non-risk groups. The review of relevant policies was also completed for the five project countries, serving as a base for the following comparative analysis. A first article was prepared. The current stage of the project was discussed at a meeting of the project’s scientific advisory board in September 2012 in Berlin.