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New research project seeks to close gaps in social citizenship

Social inequalities across Europe are rising. Poverty rates have increased, and men and women with low education face unemployment and precarious working conditions, such as zero-hour contracts. Meanwhile, many citizens fail to fully exercise their social rights due to a lack of information and complex bureaucratic procedures.

The extent of these inequalities, and the relative effectiveness of the social protection policies that seek to combat them, have been exposed by the recent coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

Professor Jacqueline O’Reilly, Co-Director of the Digit Research Centre at the University of Sussex Business School, explains:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated citizens’ economic and social vulnerability when they lose any source of paid income – in this case, as a result of lockdown.

“We have seen governments introduce unprecedented financial policies to compensate for wage losses for those in regular employment, gig work and self-employment. But the extent and the effectiveness of these policies are as yet unknown.”

Professor O’Reilly is the UK lead on a new project - EUROSHIP: Closing gaps in social citizenship. New tools to foster social resilience in Europe – that will explore the effectiveness of social protection policies that aim to reduce poverty and social exclusion in Europe.

EUROSHIP will examine how individual citizens and households cope with social risks – such as low education, low income, and care obligations – and identify how social protection policies affect citizens’ life choices. In particular, the project will focus on three key groups of citizens: youth at risk, precarious workers with care obligations, and elderly and disabled people with long-term care needs.

The team will employ a range of research methods, including interviews with low-skilled and low-income women and men, focus forums, policy analyses, and quantitative analyses of comparative micro-data. The project aims to develop proposals for effective policies and inform policymakers about how best to close the current gaps in social citizenship and foster a cohesive and socially resilient Europe.

The outcomes of the project will also help to realize the ambitions reflected in the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Professor O’Reilly says: "The EUROSHIP project gives us a very timely opportunity to understand how well such policies will bridge the gaps and how the future for UK citizens compares with those in other European countries."

The project, funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme, will be carried out by a consortium of academic institutions from eight countries, including Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The project is funded for three years, starting in April 2020.

By: George Meredith
Last updated: Wednesday, 1 April 2020