Towards a comprehensive conceptual framework of social investment

Activity: Talk or presentationScience to science


From the 1990s onwards, the concept of social investment has been discussed as a potential pathway for reforming developed welfare states against the background of old and new risks. Notwithstanding the favourable acceptance of this new paradigm by academic and non-academic institutions alike, it has been subject to a lot of criticism. We argue that much of this criticism relates to the fact that the social investment paradigm is still theoretically and conceptually underdeveloped. In our paper, we offer a conceptual framework of the social investment perspective. It builds on earlier attempts (e.g. Bonoli, DeDeken, Kvist, Nolan, et al.) and extends these. The framework we propose builds on several assumptions. We argue that one key objective of social investment is breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, a second key objective is preventing social exclusion. We frame these objectives as final outcomes. To break the intergenerational transmission of poverty, human capital development is crucial as it enhances the employability of people. To prevent social inclusion, the social investment perspective defines labour market participation as a chief way: this requires enabling paid employment for as many working age adults as possible. We frame these aims as intermediate outcomes that relate to the final outcomes identified above. To identify to what extent a specific social policy measure is a social investment measure thus involves examining both (a) the degree to which it enhances the employability of people and/or (b) the degree to which it allows integrating, re-integrating or keeping people in paid employment. In our framework, we also incorporate the role of different welfare actors in achieving these final and intermediate outcomes – a role, which differs according to the welfare state architecture a country has implemented.
Period1 Sept 20163 Sept 2016
Event titleAnnual ESPAnet Conference 2016: Re-inventing the Welfare State?
Event typeUnknown
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 509012 Social policy
  • 504003 Poverty and social exclusion