Sessione 37

The challenge of inclusiveness: income support in hard times in a comparative and multi-level perspective

Coordinatori/coordinatrici di sessione: Ilaria Madama (Università degli Studi di Milano), Marcello Natili (Università degli Studi di Milano).



During the last decade, the Great Recession, first, and the COVID-19 global pandemic, then, have contributed to make European societies more unequal, aggravating existing and deeply-rooted socio-economic inequalities. Parallel to this, European labour markets have become more fragmented and polarized. Over the past two decades, labour deregulation has been a hallmark in most advanced economies when implementing structural labour market reforms. The increase of workers hired under different types of contracts, characterised by different degrees of job and social protection, has resulted in growing labour market segmentation, with higher shares of ‘vulnerable’ workers. Automation and technological change have further exacerbated such dynamics. Indeed, on the one side, the gig economy has contributed to the rapid diffusion of the so-called ‘platform workers’ on the other, new technologies have made jobs traditionally sheltered from international competition suddenly more exposed.

Such well-entrenched and diffused new labour market divides constitute a challenge for European welfare states in terms of inclusiveness. Indeed, the institutional architecture of the welfare system may reinforce or, to the opposite, reduce existing labour market divides, hence constituting a source of socio-economic risk in itself. Specific categories of workers may have difficulties in accessing social benefits because of their incomplete contribution records, or to wage supplementation schemes because of discriminating sector-based rules on entitlement conditions. Similarly, non-contributory needs-based social programs display very heterogeneous degrees of inclusiveness, so that, in some cases, only individuals in extreme poverty can access such programs, whereas, in others, they are much more inclusive and protect also vulnerable workers and families not in conditions of severe poverty.

Against this background, this session welcomes papers analyzing – theoretically or empirically – the inclusiveness of income support benefits, and the political dynamics behind ‘inclusion’ and/or exclusion of specific social groups and/or labour market categories. Papers presenting both comparative analyses – covering more than one country and/or policy sectors – and case studies addressing the following topics (but not limited to them) are welcome:

– How do recent policy changes contribute to increase and/or reduce the inclusiveness of income-support benefits?
– Has the COVID-19 crisis changed the political dynamics of ‘inclusiveness’?
– What is the role of the EU in this policy field? Is it possible to identify past and present EU specific policy paradigms regarding income support ‘inclusiveness’?

The panel aims to address these topics from an interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspective, welcoming contributions both IN ITALIAN and in ENGLISH, relying on quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods approaches.

The session will be held in English.