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Victoria C. Ramenzoni and David Yoskowitz

After Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, governmental organizations have placed the development of metrics to quantify social impacts, resilience, and community adaptation at the center of their agendas. Following the premise that social indicators provide valuable information to help decision makers address complex interactions between people and the environment, several interagency groups in the United States have undertaken the task of embedding social metrics into policy and management. While this task has illuminated important opportunities for consolidating social and behavioral disciplines at the core of the federal government, there are still significant risks and challenges as quantification approaches move forward. In this article, we discuss the major rationale underpinning these efforts, as well as the limitations and conflicts encountered in transitioning research to policy and application. We draw from a comprehensive literature review to explore major initiatives in institutional scenarios addressing community well-being, vulnerability, and resilience in coastal and ocean resource management agencies.

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Peter Herrmann

This article concerns challenges arising from the development of economic globalization as the so-called “creator of a new world order“ and its tendency to deteriorate the foundation of a global order in terms of social justice, solidarity, and human dignity. As main point of referral functions, the report of the "Commission Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi" on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress that refers to the European Commission's strategy of development, acknowledges the need for these values. On behalf of this reflection, this article is based on the recent outcomes of the exploration of these social quality issues in a recent published book by the Foundation on Social Quality. The article argues that indicators are needed in order to understand the effects of societal changes in response to the current economic globalization, which increases inequality and the fragmentation of the labor market.

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Ivan Svetlik

Reading 'The Social Quality of Europe' is a challenge, partly because several authors' discussions go beyond the well-structured concepts of social policy, social security and the welfare state, and even more because the protagonists of social quality acknowledge that 'if no application is possible... it will only be used in unproblematic situations and function as a tautology.' It 'will remain an abstract and affirmative concept, of little use in theory and research of social problems in the widest sense' (Baars et al., 1997). That is why, in this article, we would like to make a contribution to the conceptual discussion, with particular reference to the issues of eventual empirical research. Due to the complexity of the concept it will not be possible to examine operationalisation in depth.

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Muhammad Yasir Ali and Ka Lin

This study investigates the difference between the maps of social quality and perceived social quality. Using survey data collected from Peshawar, a prominent city in Pakistan, we compare the general and the perceived maps of social quality drawn from survey respondents based on their stands of income, education, age, and gender. With this comparison, the study conducts the regression analysis about the data to reveal the relations between these factors and draw some policy implications. The analysis contrasting objective and subjective visions of the social quality map may support a constructionist view on social quality and, more essentially, bring our view into the diversity of the perceived maps of social quality in reference to the interests of different social groups in society.

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Katharina Seebaß

Ongoing climate change has led to an increase in extreme temperatures, which influence both the environment and human beings. However, not everyone is affected by heat stress to the same degree. This article analyzes who is affected by subjective heat stress. Individual and social indicators of vulnerability and exposure—mediated by conditions of housing and living environments—are considered simultaneously, from the sociological perspective of social inequality influences. Using local data from an empirical survey in Nuremberg, Germany, the article shows that age, individual health, and social contexts all explain variations in how people experience heat stress. It is further hypothesized and confirmed that heat exposure due to disadvantaged housing conditions or distance from green space increases the levels of subjective heat stress. When looking at differences in levels of subjective heat stress, the consideration of heat exposure due to social vulnerability and socioeconomic reasons offers some explanations.

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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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Convergence in Social Welfare Systems

From Evidence to Explanations

Denis Bouget

After the Second World War, the view that people of every nation would be entitled to experience rising standards of living pervaded all corners of the globe. Convergence was seen as a positive way of achieving a Golden Age and a peaceful and affluent utopia, through modernisation and technical progress. Within this general belief, the development of national social welfare systems in Europe in the postwar period appears to be the outcome of autonomous national processes. The construction of Europe, which imposed common rules in many areas, was nonetheless consistent with the national development of social welfare systems within each national culture. The idea of a common system of social protection has always been linked to European political and economic construction, which was expected to create a more cohesive society. Reference is made constantly to convergence as a catching-up process in the comparative evaluation of national social policies, but the implementation of an ambitious European system of social protection and the creation of harmonised national welfare systems have always proved to be impossible. The paper focuses on two specific topics. Firstly, it examines attempts to quantify convergence among EU and OECD countries at the macro-economic level, using social indicators to assess the convergence or divergence of social expenditure. The evidence of convergence is shown to be ambiguous due to a number of methodological problems. Secondly, two main interpretations of convergence are examined: economic forces and legal frameworks. The paper shows that the analysis of national trajectories of social expenditure and the link with economic development can enrich the analysis of convergence or divergence in social protection. Even if the maturation or reform of national social policies explains the origins of increases in social expenditure, macro-economic pressures, or constraints (globalisation, Single Market), on public expenditure can fuel certain type of convergence. In all the developed countries, social welfare systems are based on national legal frameworks. A goal of social Europe is not only to work towards European solidarity but also to build common social rights throughout Europe. Convergence of national social welfare systems can, therefore, be interpreted as a component in a general process of convergence in law within the developed countries, especially within Europe. However, common explanations of convergence in social welfare systems often neglect elements of divergence. They, therefore, conceal the complexity of the process and very often underestimate the full extent of divergence.