2014 EISS Conference in Leuven, Belgium: "Social integration through social security: policies, outcomes and rights"
Social security systems are a crucial factor in the materialization of the social integration of citizens. That social security should aim at social integration seems to be widely accepted on both a national and a European level. Yet the picture gets more blurred when we try to understand what we understand in common by social integration or when we consider the outcome of integration to be achieved. A more fundamental understanding can help us to assess the social policies behind social security schemes, on both their efficiency and effectiveness. Of similar importance is the question to what extent social integration can be achieved through social security systems, and reversely what parts are (better to be) addressed by other actors in society.
In the EISS conference 2014 “social integration” – as one of the major objectives of social security - is put at the centre of discussion. Leading scholars will approach the objective from three different angles: the social (security) policies, the outcomes and the social rights materialising social integration.
The policies behind social security deal with the question how and at what level social integration is to be achieved: social policies can put emphasis upon the public social security systems, yet can also address other schemes such as fiscal, occupational and non-governmental schemes. Policies can aim at a rather centralized approach or opt for more decentralization in service and benefit delivery when a proper alignment with the specific needs of the citizen is considered to be necessary.
A more fundamental question addresses the materializing of social: when can we consider it to be fulfilled? By the mere fact of providing a benefit or the guarantee of a job? Or is integration achieved when persons feel confident (well-being) in their role and position in society, thus going beyond the mere material approach in benefit and service provision? Yet can social security schemes still play a role in this immaterial aspect of social integration or should other schemes give a complementary hand here? We touch here upon the very concept of social integration: in order to measure outcomes we have to know what social integration is about; consequently it helps us to understand the position of social security in the broader integration picture.
The legal framework aims at the materialization of social integration. It deals with the question how persons can be legally protected when they are at risk of losing integration in society. At the same time it sets the entitlement conditions for benefits and services that should help people to get/remain integrated. It touches upon the balance between rights and duties in shaping these entitlement conditions. How far can we e.g. go with sanctioning people when it brings them to the margins of society? And furthermore how should the different levels of regulation (decentral, central, supranational and international) interact in shaping the legal integration framework?
By addressing from various angles the social integration objective the conference wants to chalk out a better understanding of the concept of social security, as well as to highlight the limits of social policies and social security schemes that (aim to) materialize this social integration. It recalls the open invitation made by Jos Berghman at the occasion of the start of his EISS-Presidency to do research on both the visible and less visible realm of social security. In this way the 2014 conference is also a celebration of colleague Berghman at the end his Presidency term.
Prof. Paul Schoukens
Secretary General of the EISS
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