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Paule-Monique Vernes

The main ideas of Rousseau relevant to social quality are reviewed here with reference to many of his books and essays. A central theme in Rousseau's work is connected to the evils of inequality where the poor endure their servitude in the name of an illusory common good. The social problem of inequality relates to the political problem of freedom. The social contract requires that the gap between rich and poor be as small as possible; that there is aristocratic government; and that 'the general will' combines the requirement for community with respect for individuality. The article finishes with a discussion of spatial aspects of Rousseau's work relevant to social quality, including the notion of the garden city.

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Michael Ebert, Ilona Ostner, Uschi Brand, and Steffen Kühnel

Large-scale initiatives to improve individual life chances and social structures face many problems. They need proper theorising and equally proper operationalisation. This is where the EFSQ project on ‘Social Quality Indicators’ comes into play: its main objective was to develop concepts and instruments for a country- and European-wide assessment of social quality. On the basis of ontological considerations about ‘the social’, the new approach defined a ‘quadrangle’ of four basic conditions which were assumed to determine the development of social quality: ‘socio-economic security’, ‘social inclusion’, ‘social cohesion’ and ‘social empowerment’. Relevant domains and sub-domains for each of the four components were identified and a restricted set of ‘ideal’ – mostly objective – indicators was chosen. The availability of already existing ‘hard’ data did not influence that process. Hence the project has stretched beyond the mere description of social quality in Europe and provided a stimulus to gather new relevant data on ‘forgotten’ aspects of the social quality of life. Social indicator research has a long tradition in Germany which helped us to draw effectively upon the results of regularly conducted surveys. The following report starts by explaining the German context. It then summarises key-findings from existing databases to give meaning to the ninety-five social quality indicators in the four components. Finally, we have included discussion of relevant policy initiatives.

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Chiara Saraceno and Susanna Terracina

Within Europe, Italy exhibits one of the highest levels of internal and regional heterogeneity. This heterogeneity has been long standing (so much so that a research tradition has developed looking at regional diversities as veritable social formations – see e.g. Bagnasco 1977) and at the same time not fixed. Trends in the conditions of social quality, therefore, must be read against this background. In the following paragraphs we will synthetically sketch them, on the basis of the exercise developed within the Social Quality Network (Saraceno and Terracina 2004). We are well aware that this exercise is experimental, and that the system of indicators on which it is based is still largely provisional. Therefore, we will not attempt to draw any conclusion. We will simply present trends within each so-called ‘conditional factor’.

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Juan Monreal and Salvadora Titos

A few years ago Spain was not oriented on social quality but on economic growth at the most basic level. It was necessary to improve economic conditions and to restore and consolidate democracy in order to enable Spain to enter the European Union in 1986. Once a member, Spain set out to increase its economic, political and social standing and saw it approximating the European average on the majority of indicators. As we will see below, Spain still has to improve on some of the indicators in order to reduce some persistent imbalances in its socio-economic structure. Hence, the effort made by Spain for some years now must be maintained in order to consolidate its position at the heart of the European Union from a social quality perspective.

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Mika Vuori and Mika Gissler

The 1970s could be said to be the ‘golden age’ for social and well-being indicators. After a period of slow progress, new indicators were devised in Europe during the mid-1990s, however, improvements are still needed in the knowledge and scientific theories behind these indicators. New indicators need to be developed and comparable multinational statistics need to be collected. The purpose of this article is to present key findings on social quality in Finland. The situation will be described with data at national level with some international comparisons, derived from different resources of statistics and research. Furthermore, the underlying trends that affect the social quality of Finnish people will be described.

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Xu Yanhui and Gong Ziyu

development capability of impoverished people will mean a lot for our practical poverty alleviation work. This article attempts to use the social quality theory and the community capacity theory to study the poverty of Chinese urban residents. Poverty here

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Göran Therborn and Sonia Therborn

‘Social quality’ is not a common term in Sweden and its sister notion ‘quality of life’ is used mainly with respect to the conditions of particular individuals and rarely, if ever, in social analysis. Swedish social statistics and social studies focus on ‘levels of living’ or ‘living conditions’. The perceived subjectivity connotations of ‘quality’ in this context have not been attractive. On the other hand, Swedish social research and policy evaluation have de facto been very much concerned with measuring what may properly be called qualitative dimensions of living conditions and correspondingly less interested in, for example, the possession of consumer goods.

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Social Quality in Hungary

In the Framework of ENIQ

Szilvia Altorjai and Erzsébet Bukodi

In Hungary, the social and economic conditions have dramatically changed after the political and economical transition. The collapse of communism in 1989–90 forced Hungary, as well as other CEE countries, to reconstruct their political, economic and cultural identity. This process has become known as the ‘transition’ and Europeanisation or globalisation (Manning 2004). Within this transition the ability of adjustment to new conditions has become one of the most important factors – if not the most – in the process of diminishing risks and enhancing life chances. The theoretical and methodological elements of the social quality approach were established in the last two to three years. In this article we aim to outline the most important elements of social quality in the conditional factors socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion as well as social empowerment in Hungary. Here, besides a short description of the national context we will emphasise only the key findings according to the four conditional factors. In the third part of the article we outline some aspects of the Hungarian employment policy.

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Social Quality of China

Indicators, Reality, and Problems

Li Wei and Cui Yan

China has entered a new phase of development. Living standards have significantly improved as the economy grows. Socioeconomic security, social cohesion, social inclusion, and social empowerment have all strengthened, but the social quality level is not quite satisfactory. First, many think the low “social security” cannot provide sufficient protection. Second, low social trust and lack of social belief and value system greatly affect social cohesion. Third, to cope with social discrimination and realize better tolerance, social inclusion must be addressed. People have the strongest sense of unfairness for wealth and income gaps as well as right and entitlement differences between urban and rural areas. In addition, low political efficacy and low levels of social and political participation indicate weak social empowerment in China.

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Social Quality in Slovenia

Emergent Individual Risks and Disappearing Fora to Discuss Them

Maša Filipović, Srna Mandič, and Ružica Boškić

Slovenia is among those Central East European countries that have been undergoing rather turbulent processes, the so called ‘transition’, causing many profound changes in all societal domains. The ‘transition’ was basically about ‘leaving’ the socialist economic and political systems and ‘taking over’ the market economy plus parliamentary democracy. Backed by the expertise of the World Bank, as pointed by Ferge (2001), an optimistic ‘reform and privatisation’ rhetoric prevailed, promising improvements in terms of economic efficiency, political democracy, and personal freedoms. On the other hand, the institutional and cultural societal heritage – ‘the social factor’ in brief – was not recognised as having much value in comparison to the economic and political factors. Therefore, it is a great challenge to examine thus emerging social features in one of the ‘transitional countries’ and try to compare them to others. While comparisons between West and East European societies are frequent in their economic and political characteristics, their societal features have been much less discussed and compared. The social quality approach, used in this analysis, is opening up a great number of questions about various properties of societies. The major test for the approach lies in its ability to integrate the answers.