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.
Indicators, Reality, and Problems
Li Wei and Cui Yan
Xu Yanhui and Gong Ziyu
, individual self-realization will be highly frustrated. First, people must have access to materials and resources contributing to the realization of interpersonal interaction (socioeconomic security). Second, societal institutions and structures should be open
The Social Quality Approach
Ren Liying and Zou Yuchin
explicit intention to define what a good society is, it formulates four conditional factors of social quality, namely, socioeconomic security, social cohesion, social inclusion, and social empowerment. Furthermore, it formulates four constitutional factors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maria Petmesidou and Periklis Polyzoidis
The subject matter of the ‘social’, defined as the realisation of the self in the context of collective identity, provides the central premise of the social quality perspective. On the basis of this premise the ENIQ (European Network on Indicators of Social Quality) project explored the four conditional factors of social quality, namely the extent to which social structures, patterns of interaction and policy processes, in European societies, promote (or hinder) socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion and empowerment. These are key factors for gauging ‘the extent to which people are able to participate in the social and economic life of their communities under conditions which enhance their well-being and individual potential’ (ENIQ 2004: 2; also Beck et al., 2001). In this article we will briefly examine the four conditional factors of social quality from the viewpoint of socio-economic structures, policies and daily experience in Greece. In the first part we highlight some distinctive features of Greek society that are relevant to our analysis. We then proceed to a short discussion of each of the four conditional factors and their constitutive domains (and indicators). We conclude with some brief remarks on good practices and policy implications.