26 Jan 2022

Changing Social Investment Strategies in the EU


This article attempts to identify social investment strategies across EU countries and explain their evolution over the period 2004-18, by using cluster analysis on expenditure and coverage variables and qualitative analysis on selected policy areas to contextualize the results. It finds that strategies have diversified over time in a progressively complex way. After the financial crisis, three main so-cial investment strategies emerge in Europe. They do not overlap with canonical welfare state mod-els, nor have a clear-cut geographical connotation. The strategies are distinct because of their dif-ferent levels of overall expenditure on social investment but, over time, also by their different life-course orientations. Significant variation within the clusters, in terms of both expenditure and de-sign of social investment policies, indicates that fully-fledged strategies have not yet formed in well-defined groups of countries.

The research has been undertaken as part of the EuSocialCit project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme (Grant Agreement no. 870978). The authors are grateful to Brian Burgoon, Anton Hemerijck, Rafael Muñoz de Bustillo, Kenneth Nelson, Ilze Plavgo and Sergio Torrejón Pérez for comments to previous drafts of this working paper. The content and messages of the paper remain solely responsibility of the authors.