07 Apr 2022

EU social investment agenda: what does it mean for citizens’ social rights?


This paper presents a reconstruction of the evolution of the EU social agenda from the late 1990s. It shows that – despite being uneven and at times truncated – EU advocacy for social investment as a new social policy paradigm has been increasing over the years. The paper then questions how such advocacy affected European citizens’ social rights. Building on two novel databases, which systematically collect information on all EU legislative (binding and non-binding) provisions as well as EU case-law from the end of the 1990s up to 2021, this paper explores EU social investment rights by looking at the power resources that are guaranteed to individuals. It emerges that, despite the broad, coherent, and rich framework for social investment principles offered by the EU, resources allocated to citizens remain quite limited. Citizens are not legally entitled to any specific social investment right, except for work-life balance-related parental and care leaves. Enforcement channels are also only limited to paid leave related issues. Instrumental resources to facilitate access to social investment services are mostly limited to mobile EU citizens.

This working paper is published as part of the EuSocialCit project, which has received funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement no. 870978.