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Social investments in Europe - What can be learnt from the Nordic countries?

Carlsberg Foundation Monograph Fellowships


This book argues that a European growth strategy for including more people and excluding fewer needs policies that invest in people. Using Nordic experiences in a European framework, the book explains how policies called 'social investments' can serve both economic and social goals. These policies are called 'social' because they are mostly found in social, education, labour market, healthcare and housing policies for strengthening and maintaining people's skills and capacities, so they can fully participate in education, employment and social life. These policies are also called 'investments' because they provide an eventual return, even if not in the same area as the original investment. For example a social investment may pay off as a healthy population, with a reduced crime rate.


A huge question now facing Europe is how we can reform social policies to encourage more inclusive growth and greater economic and social resilience. Social investments might be part of the answer. The project deepens our understanding of social investments theoretically and practically. Theoretically, it sets out how social investment can reach vulnerable youth, homeless, migrants, and elderly people along with the traditional target groups of children and unemployed. Practically, it examines how problems typically associated with implementation of social investments can be addressed in policy analysis using life course perspectives, socio-economic investment models, integrated case management models, policy delivery packages and public policies informed by behavioral insights.


The book sets out a novel framework: social investments over the life course that can be applied across many groups and social problems, and that express the essential Nordic welfare idea of investing in people so they can reach their maximum potential which is good for both them and the society around them. For many years I have studied how Denmark deals with various social and economic questions and contributed to the country-comparing reports and EU strategies, including the EU's Social Investment Package. Therefore, I will use ESPN country reports for comparing institutions throughout Europe along with relevant statistics from Eurostat, the World Health Organisation, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to assess what can be learnt from the Nordic countries.


This project can help change the way we think of welfare policies in Europe and inform future reforms. By identifying best practice and ways to overcome problems of implementing social investments, social impact is at the centre of the project. Indeed, the book i) sets out and connects all the important ideas in social investments over the life course and demonstrates ii) where they have worked and iii) what are the most promising practices in which policy-makers and researchers may find inspiration.