The article presents the application of the Social Quality Approach in order to develop a clear understanding of the European Social Model. For this Social Quality is understood as both a normative approach and an analytical tool. The article allows an insight into the actual meaning of the statement frequently made that the course of European integration falls short when it comes to social policy. The problem, however, is not the lack of responsibility for social policy. Rather, the author emphasises that the real problem is the specific interpretation of the social.
Opening Individual Well-Being for a Social Perspective
The French Case
Denis Bouget and Frederic Salladarré
The objective of this study is to establish a set of indicators capable of forming the empirical basis of the concept of social quality for European citizens. Social quality is defined as the extent to which citizens are able to participate in the social and economic life of their communities under conditions which enhance their well-being and individual potential (Beck et al. 2001: 6). Before analysing the four social quality conditional factors, we will describe some facts surrounding the French situation. Firstly, the general social and economic situation will be described through characteristics which are particularly outstanding in France, i.e., in the first place unemployment and flexibility (in a negative sense comprising working poor, involuntary part-time workers, etc.). In the second place, certain striking features in the four conditional factors of social quality will be emphasised.
Outcomes for Belgium
Veerle de Maesschalck
In presenting social quality indicators for Belgium, we have confined ourselves to explaining the national situation concerning these indicators without reflecting on the theory of social quality itself or the broader theoretical framework. When considering social quality from a Belgian perspective, it is important to keep the national context in mind and this is covered in Part I of this article. Part II focuses on the outcomes of social quality indicators, with the findings presented by domain, rather than by component (security, cohesion, inclusion, empowerment). An example of good practice in the context of social quality is provided in Part III, illustrating how the Belgian system of individual work time reduction embodies elements of each of the four components. Finally, we conclude this article by illustrating how Belgium performs in terms of social quality.
A Welfare State?
This article introduces the four components of social quality from the British perspective. The main issue that this article highlights is the difference between British and European social understandings of inclusion and social policy. Development of theory around the subject matter of the four components as equal sectors of social quality could help to progress the British agenda closer towards Europe to relate the individual and the community to the formation of collective identity.
Anne Fairweather, Borut Rončević, Maj Rydbjerg, Marie Valentová and Mojca Zajc
Social quality was first conceptualised and developed in the book ‘The Social Quality of Europe’ (Beck et al, 1997). This book, through a series of articles, develops the background to the concept and then produces a theoretical framework of social quality. Finally it critically assesses the possibilities for and problems with the concept. In the present paper, we first look at the concept of social quality itself. We then go on to examine the four components of social quality: socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion and empowerment. In each section on individual components the general conceptualisation of this component is discussed, and this is followed by a discussion of how it fits into the social quality quadrant. A number of issues are then identified, that will require further research.
Outcomes of the European Scientific Network
Laurent J.G. van der Maesen and Alan C. Walker
In October 2001, the Network Indicators of Social Quality started the process of creating social quality indicators. This project of the European Foundation on Social Quality was supported by the European Commission (DG Research) under Framework Programme 5 (van der Maesen et al. 2000). The Network consisted of representatives of universities from 14 partner countries and two European NGOs. Over its forty-two-month life the Network held four meetings. Three plenary meetings were organised with all assistants thanks to the financial support by the Dutch Scientific Foundation (NWO). Also through the creation of unique national reference groups on social quality, the Network has engaged more than a hundred scientists and policy makers in its work. The project was completed in April 2005. The intriguing question was how to theoretically legitimise the choice of social quality indicators compared to the indicators constructed in the context of 'quality of life' approaches, as developed for example by ZUMA of the University of Mannheim (Noll 2000; Berger-Schmit et al. 2000) and the European Foundation on the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions in Dublin (Fahey et al. 2002).
Reflecting on the Context and the Conditional Factors
Heloísa Perista, Pedro Perista and Isabel Baptista
Emphasising the ‘dialectic of self-realisation and the formation of collective identities’, the social quality theory becomes operative through four distinct, though interrelated, conditional factors: socio-economic security, social cohesion, social inclusion and social empowerment. Needless to say, such a formulation intends to create the grounds for a theory highly sensible to societal change. This article intends to give account of that societal change over the last few years on the grounds of the Portuguese historical context, and focusing on specificity reflected by the national context of social quality in comparison with the European (EU-15) context. This article comprises three main sections. The first one presents the relevant aspects of the Portuguese context regarding social quality. The second section summarises the key findings reflecting the specificity of the national situation regarding the four conditional factors of social quality and its domains. The third and last section reports a good practice and points out possible ways to stimulate social quality in the country.
The Case of Peshawar, Pakistan
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.
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.
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.