The ERC research programme WellSIRe assesses the role of social investment policies in 21st century welfare states in post-industrial European societies. Social investment policies transcend welfare state provision beyond ex-post income compensation to ex-ante risk-prevention and capacitation. The objective is to enhance people’s opportunities and capabilities to resolve social risks typical of post-industrial societies ex-ante, while ensuring the high levels of (quality) employment necessary to sustain the ‘carrying capacity’ of popular welfare states. Arguably, this requires a far wider ambit of policy interventions across the entire life course than traditional social security. The WellSire project combines sociological and political science approaches to analyse ‘wellbeing returns’ on social investment reform across countries, focusing on vulnerable groups in the working-age population and families with children. The empirical assessment of returns on social investment tackles the critical role of three complementary policy functions: (1) improving the lifelong stock of human capital; (2) easing the flow of gendered labour market and family life-course transitions; and (3) maintaining and updating inclusive social protection buffers, both in the present and over time. To grasp the complementarities of these policy functions and their welfare returns, WellSIRe develops a mixed methodology combining quantitative-macro analyses of welfare performance, quantitative-micro analyses of individual socioeconomic conditions and subjective wellbeing, and qualitative-institutional analysis of national social investment reform. Successful candidates will conduct an innovative PhD thesis on the welfare state of 21st century and contribute to one or more of the three main research streams within the project:
- Social investment policy mixes and their effect on individuals’ life-course transitions with respect to employment and poverty at the micro level;
- Social investment policy mixes and their effect on subjective wellbeing and people’s capabilities to fulfil their work-life balance aspirations;
- Sequences of social policy reforms and pathways to social investment recalibration processes at a national and subnational level across a representative set of EU member states.