The crisis has strongly impacted European societies. The need for social protection increased due to rising inequalities, in-work poverty, persisting unemployment and at the same time the ability of the Member States to provide inclusion policies and the needed social protection is limited originating from financial pressure. To solve this problem social reform is necessary; modernisation of social protection systems and services structured around an innovative social investment approach. This should help individuals, families and the society at large to adapt to current and future societal challenges and Member States to use their social budgets more effectively and efficiently.
The innovative approach to social investment is relatively recent when considering the reform of the welfare state. It perceives the state as an investor rather than a spender by focusing its efforts on preparation and prevention instead of reparation. It includes investment in human capital (e.g. early childhood education and care, education and lifelong training), the efficient use of human capital (e.g. supporting women’s employment), and fostering greater social inclusion (granting labour market access to groups traditionally excluded).
Research on innovative ways of social investment presumes the following activities:
- identifying the problem;
- determining those policies which are in line with these characteristics of the new approach;
- evaluation of policy measures;
- building case studies, best practices from the identified cases, concentrating on affects and adaptability to identify innovative ways of implementation and financing of social welfare systems.
Besides, focus on gender dimension and generational justice is a horizontal requirement of this multidisciplinary research.
Our research team has already gained experience in conducting multidisciplinary research relating to many parts of social investment, such as identifying spatial inequalities, local development projects, and evaluating welfare measures.
1. Identifying spatial inequalities
The first step is to identify the problems. Spatial inequalities are at the same time causes and results of social developments. Our researchers have conducted research on many forms of spatial inequalities: inequalities in income (Major 2008), in human development index (Csite and Németh 2007) or in life expectancy (Csite and Németh 2008) at micro-regional level in Hungary.
Csite András – Németh Nándor (2007): Regional inequalities in the quality of life: potentials of HDI estimations at the level of Hungarian micro regions. Budapest Working Papers On The Labour Market, BWP 2007/3 (in Hungarian only)
Csite András – Németh Nándor (2008): A születéskor várható élettartam kistérségi egyenlőtlenségei az ezredforduló Magyarországán. Kormányzás, Közpénzügyek, Szabályozás. Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 257-289. (in Hungarian only)
Major Klára (2008): Income Disparities among Hungarian micro-regions: the Mover-Stayer model, Acta Oeconomica, Vol. 58 (2) pp. 127–156.
2. Case studies on local development projects as solutions
Several case studies about local economic development projects was delivered in Németh (2010), who investigated whether development projects at community level are permanently able to decrease long term unemployment in rural areas. These projects analyze characteristics from both market and state based solutions. This topic was supplemented by Megyesi (2012) through a research about institutions and networks in rural areas.
Megyesi Boldizsár (2012): Institutions and networks in rural development: two case studies from Hungary. In: Stefan Sjöblom, Kjell Andersson, Terry Marsden, Sarah Skerratt (ed.) Sustainability and Short-term Policies: Improving Governance in Spatial Policy Interventions Surrey: Ashgate, 2012. pp. 217-244. (Ashgate Studies in Environmental Policy and Practice) (ISBN:978-1-4094-4677-4)
Németh Nándor (ed.), Csite András, Kabai Gergely, Németh Nándor (2010) Helyi Kezdeményezésű Gazdaságfejlesztési Programok vizsgálata, értékelése. [Evaluating and analyzing “Locally Initiated Economy Development Program”, using case studies (2010)]
3. Effects of welfare measures
State provided welfare benefits influence the choices of the individuals, and among other, their choice to participate in the labour market. Lovász and Szabó-Movai (2013) investigate how childcare benefits influence mothers’ labour market choices. They show that the availability of subsidized childcare (kindergarten) affects Hungarian mothers’ labour market participation significantly but is not able to explain all the changes happens around the 3rd birthday of the child. According to their conclusion other factors like the separation preferences or availability of flexible job opportunities influence the mothers’ choice, as well, as the childcare and mother leave.
4. Evaluating development policies
During the program evaluations of the 2007-2013 national strategic reference framework commissioned by Hungarian Development Agency our researchers led research programs about different socially groups:
- Roma (gipsy) integration
- background of youth unemployment
- local effects of territorial cohesion policy
- dynamization of underdeveloped regions