Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Family Policies in Romania within the European Framework 1

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Family Policies in Romania within the European Framework 1

Article excerpt

Social policies at EU level

Despite attempts to harmonize social policies, EU countries differ greatly in the support they provide. Employment policies are always mentioned as a central element in social policies, but social measures almost never played a major stake in economic policies. Social policy has been rather sidelined from the beginning of the common EU policies. Moreover, after the financial crisis, social policy is built around a rather economic vision in which key elements are "social security", "pensions", "labor market", "and structural reforms". "Social Europe" has not progressed much since the advent of this goal (Ferrera, 2005; Barbier, 2012a). "Social justice", "redistribution" and "social protection" have always hit the barrier of the national implementation level, remaining rather metaphors in general political discourse than political realities. The main target of the social programs - reducing poverty - is still very difficult to reach and the success of the implemented measures is rather limited.

Social policy at the EU level can be seen more as a political discourse rather than a set of programs with actual results. Social spending at EU level is negligible compared with the national ones, the authority of political decisions being placed almost exclusively at national level. The innovative Open Method of Coordination of the late 1990s is a matter of political speech, without effective power of coordination (Barbier, 2012b). The very concept of social policy in its traditional sense seems inappropriate when applied at European level, with a rather vague and "elastic" meaning (Barbier, 2012b). We are facing a paradoxical situation: "policy without politics" at European level and "politics without policy" at the national level (Schmidt, 2006:5). Social policies continue to be implemented by each country, despite EU regulatory efforts, and so path dependency and cultural differences lead to different design of the policies.

Great diversity in social and family policies

The modern state has consolidated a number of social functions as an instrument of development (Zamfir and Zamfir, 1995). In spite of commonalities, there are considerable differences between countries in terms of resources, organization and coverage. Social policies have different traditions, that emerged and developed in different social and historical contexts (Flora, Heidenheimer 1995; Pfau-Effinger 1999). Even within the same country, social policies can bring together different measures, partly incoherent, as adaptive responses to problematic situations.

Simplifying, we can divide the classical models of social policy in two opposite orientations: an institutional redistributive model with universal social services and generous benefits versus a minimalist model, with targeted and residual benefits. The classification is more theoretical, whereas empirical studies reveal the difficulty of treating social policy as a coherent and unified body.

Before the EU admission of the countries from Central and Eastern Europe, the most common classification was in 4 distinct classes: the northern, the continental, the Anglo-Saxon and the Mediterranean ones (Esping-Andersen, 1990; Ferrera, 1996; Bonoli, 1997; Ferrara, 1998). The classification corresponds not only to models of social policy, but also to specific geographic areas, dividing Europe into regions politically and spatially coherent. This classifications originate from the ones developed by Esping Andersen in 1990, based on the degree of decomodification, the redistributive impact of social benefits and services and the degree of private sector involvement in the provision of benefits (Esping-Andersen 1990: 22). The Social Democratic Europe (Nordic countries) has universal and homogeneous social programs, aiming the independence and social equality of individuals together with a decent standard of living. The Liberal Europe (Anglo-Saxon countries) encourages individualism based on the labour market and on the welfare schemes developed by market principles. …

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