The various chapters of this book have shown that we can observe increased social investment efforts in both European and East Asian countries. In family policy particularly, governments have made considerable efforts to improve work–family reconciliation policy (including early childhood education and care provisions) with the objective of promoting women’s employment, child development and increasing fertility rates. Unsurprisingly, the social investment literature draws heavily on the experience of family policy expansion across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries. In addition to greater public social investments, we find intensified private social investments in the domain of education. Families’ mobilisation of substantial resources for higher education is well documented, and student tuition has attracted much controversy in many OECD countries. Private tutoring (or shadow education) as private social investment has long enjoyed much prominence in East Asia, where it is a dominant feature of the lives of young learners. It has, however, received less attention that shadow education is on the rise in Europe too.
Besides the economic rationales that are typically associated with social investment strategies, policy-makers, especially on the political left, are also driven by the desire to improve equality of opportunities, which is thought to eventually translate into greater social equality, including greater gender equality. Most notably, childcare provisions promote women’s employment participation and thereby increasing their economic independence, and early education provisions are widely assumed to benefit children from disadvantaged backgrounds the most. It is hoped this will close the achievement gap between children from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Social investment policies have enjoyed prominence during recent welfare reforms across the OECD world, and yet there is insufficient long-term strategy for their success.
Reviewing labour market, family and education policies, this edited collection analyses the emergence of social investment policies in both Europe and East Asia. Adopting a life course perspective and examining both public and private investments, this book addresses key contemporary policy issues including care, learning, work, social mobility and inequalities.
Providing original observations, this seminal text explores the roads and barriers towards effective social investment policies, derives practical social policy implications and highlights important lessons for future policymaking.
Across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) world, social investment policies are expanding, which Hemerijck (2015) describes as a ‘quiet paradigm revolution’. Nordic countries are widely considered the pioneers in social investment policies – with Sweden having already embarked on progressive policies during the post-war era and thus presenting the longest track record of remarkable social investments (Morel et al, 2012). Much attention has been paid to Sweden’s ambitious, active labour market policies, which are aimed at upskilling workers, and the country’s employment-oriented family policies (most notably childcare provisions, but also parental leave schemes helping with work–family reconciliation), which promote mothers’ participation in the labour market. In addition to its extensive childcare provisions, the country’s comprehensive education and healthcare systems have earned Sweden recognition as a ‘social service state’ (Huber and Stephens, 2001).
While Nordic countries remain the frontrunners, with the greatest financial commitment to social investment policies (Kuitto, 2016), we observe that latecomers from not only Continental Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world, but also East Asia, have made considerable efforts to catch up with the Northern European pioneers. The rise of social investments, especially the expansion of employment-oriented family policy (Lewis et al, 2008; Ferragina and Seeleib-Kaiser, 2015), presents an important dimension of the recent transformation of advanced welfare capitalism, which, despite the prominence of retrenchment, cannot be reduced to welfare state regress. For instance, Germany, which has a long legacy of promoting traditional families, made considerable efforts to expand its childcare provisions (including childcare for those under three years of age), in addition to introducing an earnings-related parental leave scheme that largely resembles the Swedish leave policy.