New social needs have emerged over the course of the last thirty years, along with the ageing of the population, the instability of family life and the transformation of labour markets. Over the same period, social protection systems have encountered increasing financial problems due to international competition, slowing growth, and, more recently, the economic crisis that followed on the heels of the subprime crisis. Most often, the responses have sought to strengthen the links between contributions and social benefits, to increase the participation of households in health care expenses, to strengthen preventive measures and to encourage the unemployed to rejoin the workforce.
Public decision-makers are seeking to move from a redistributive, curative conception of social protection to a more preventive, proactive and integrated model. In practice, this conceptual change is manifest through reforms which are more or less consistent, including reforms concerning legislation on worker protection, stimulation of labour markets and life-long learning.
This trend is part of the logic of flexicurity, a combination of labour market flexibility with income security. Though Northern European countries have taken the lead in offering evidence that social protection acted as both a social buffer and an efficient economic stabilizer in periods of crisis, their social model is not transferable. In order to avoid the ever-present risk of a "downward" convergence, it is important to anchor reforms within the logic of social investment and human development.Report:
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