Disability and Life Course from a Social Investment Perspective - Austerity Measures or ‘Thicker’ EU Social Citizenship?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Rune HALVORSEN, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Bjorn HVINDEN, Oslo Metropolitan University (OSLOMET), Norway
Mi Ah SCHOYEN, Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway
This paper assesses how adequate social investment (SI) policies are as frameworks for promoting life-long Active Citizenship (opportunities for security, autonomy and influence) among persons with disabilities. The SI perspective has become a dominant justification for how social policy is to contribute to social and economic development in Europe, exemplified by the European Commission’s 2013 SI Package. SI is mainly supply-oriented and focusing on the person’s qualifications, skills or ‘human capital’, with a view to strengthening the person’s ‘employability’. More rarely, SI policies address obstacles to employment related to health, work capacity, accessibility, discrimination or neglect. In contrast to recent SI literature from a life-course perspective (e.g. Kvist, 2013, 2014), in the European Pillar initiative the Commission explicitly addresses the situation of persons with disabilities at different stages of the life course. Yet, while the initiative to codify social rights and demand-side measures through the European Pillar is significant, we question whether it fully rectifies the limitations of SI. Combined, the EU SI policies and the European Pillar have considerable potential, but are unlikely to succeed unless they more sharply address the interaction between the person’s capacity for reflection and action (‘agency’) and factors in the surrounding environment enabling or hampering such agency. Examining changes in spending allocated to disability-related social provisions and related policy outcomes in European countries, the paper identifies similarities and differences in how the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing fiscal consolidation measures have influenced their SI profiles related to persons with disabilities. Drawing on findings from life-course interviews with persons with disabilities in three age cohorts (born around 1950, 1970 and 1990) in nine European countries (N=217), we discuss how the Capability Approach may inform future codifications of the social investment perspective by the EU and the member states.