Final Report Summary - LIVEWHAT (Living with Hard Times: How European Citizens Deal with Economic Crises and Their Social and Political Consequences)
The economic crisis that hit Europe in 2008 is without precedent in postwar economic history. The ongoing recession has left deep and long-lasting traces on economic performance and entails social hardship of many kinds. Those hardest hit are those most likely to exit the political sphere and withdraw from political engagement. Falling political participation and the rise of populist groups and rhetoric in various European countries is only one side of the story. Understanding how citizens develop resilience in difficult times—rather than opting for fatalism or rejecting any involvement in public life—is crucial for scientists, policymakers, stakeholders, and society at large. It is in this context that LIVEWHAT was born.
Launched in December 2013, LIVEWHAT’s main aim was to provide evidence-based knowledge about citizens’ resilience in times of economic crises in nine European countries: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Throughout its 3-year duration, the project examined the ways in which European citizens have reacted to the crisis that, at different degrees of intensity in different countries, struck Europe in 2008. Addition¬ally, it examined how they dealt with economic crises and their consequences more generally. The project studied both the individual and collective responses by citizens, the private and public dimensions of such responses, and political and nonpolitical responses. LIVEWHAT not only focused on citizens’ responses but also shed light on policy responses so as to have a baseline for assessing citizens’ resilience in times of crisis.
LIVEWHAT tackled the following objectives: At a descriptive level, to provide systematic evidence of the ways in which European citizens respond to economic crises and to policy responses to such crises, both individually and collectively. At an explanatory objective: To advance knowledge on the connections between individual factors, contextual factors, and the ways in which European citizens respond to economic crises and to policy responses to such crises. At a practical and policy-oriented level: To suggest a number of good practices as to how to deal with economic crises, both at the social and political level, through which their negative consequences on European citizens can be avoided or limited.
The project’s objectives were addressed by means of a variety of data and methods: a cross-national comparative dataset on economic, social, and political indicators; the analysis of policy responses, collective responses, and individual responses by private citizens to crises; lab and survey experiments designed to assess causal effects of different dimensions of crises on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors; and the analysis of alternative forms of resilience in times of crisis. LIVEWHAT findings provide evidence-based knowledge about citizens’ resilience in times of economic crises, allowing for more effective policy responses to the negative consequences of such crises. The project examined the ways in which European citizens have reacted to the recent crisis that, at different degrees of intensity in different countries, struck Europe in 2008, as well as how they deal with economic crises and their consequences more generally. While the focus of the research was on citizens’ coping strategies and responses (individual and collective), LIVEWHAT also examined policy responses so as to have a baseline for assessing citizens’ resilience.
Project Context and Objectives:
The economic crisis that hit Europe in 2008 is without precedent in postwar economic history. The ongoing recession has left deep and long -lasting traces on economic performance and entails social hardship of many kinds. European citizens are still struggling with acute social impacts, most notably high levels of unemployment, decrease in credit access, cuts in social services, changes in consumption patterns and a grim outlook for the future of their children. As citizens try to cope with the effects of negative economic conditions, attention has been drawn to the potential political effects of the recession. One possible negative effect of economic hardship is the decline of political participation and civic engagement. If citizens need to struggle with working overtime to keep a job, searching for a new job, or more generally dealing with the array of difficulties thrown up by economic hardship, they will have less time and resources to engage in political action. Perhaps more importantly, losing a job (or, for young people, not being able to find one) means the loss or absence of social networks and personal contacts which facilitate the spread of information and solidarity and motivate people to engage in political action. However, while the experience of economic difficulty can certainly be understood as draining resources from political participation, it may also be considered that tough economic conditions generate grievances which people may seek to redress through political participation, and sometimes through recourse to protest.
Using the paradigm of “exit, voice and loyalty” one might argue that those hardest hit by economic recession are also those most likely to “exit” the political sphere and withdraw from political engagement. It is only those who are relatively insulated from financial hardship who may have the resources (whether economic or social) necessary to “voice” their concerns and engage in political action. Others still, will choose “loyalty” even in the face of economic crisis – whether due to the fact that they are not exposed to the negative effects of recession or unemployment or because other factors lead them to support the current economic system, even in the face of unravelling economic problems. The wide range of the consequences of crises on citizens' resilience, however, is not limited to the choice between retreating from public life and various forms of participation, on one hand, and political engagement (including in protest activities), on the other. There is a range of other possible responses to crises and their negative consequences. Understanding how citizens develop resilience in difficult times—rather than opting for fatalism or rejecting any involvement in public life—is crucial for scientists, policymakers, stakeholders, and society at large. It is in this context that LIVEWHAT was born.
Going beyond the results of previous studies that have focused on specific groups such as children, youth, and families, LIVEWHAT aimed to systematically evaluate patterns of resilience amongst European citizens at large, in their effort to improve strength and resources (as well as political intervention) during hard times of economic adversity. Crucially, LIVEWHAT's conceptualization of resilience refers to the capacity of European citizens to stand against economic hardship through an active process of resilience. Thus, the “voice” side also refers to citizens who choose different channels and strategies to make their voice heard as an active reaction to crises. Not only can they engage in political action and protest, but they may seek access to justice at various levels (from local to European and international) and take part in the associational life of their community. Economic crises may also open up new opportunities for political parties – in particular, right-wing populist parties – which voters might consider as providing attractive solutions to cope with the negative consequences of the crisis. In LIVEWHAT's framework, changing political attitudes and voting behaviors can also stem from the situation of strong economic hardship.
As regards the “exit” side, citizens might develop new attitudes and practices towards the economic system, society at large, and their own place within it, such as for example barter networks, food banks, free medical services, soup kitchens, new cooperatives, and free legal advice. In addition, trust which is built in networks by social support and personal contact is vital to engaging in alternative economic practices. Studies show the existence of a wide repertoire of non-capitalist practices that involve citizens lowering their cost of living, connecting to other communities and assisting others. Alternative forms of resilience include the strengthening of social and family networks and community practices to foster solidarity in the face of crises, change of lifestyles towards more sustainable forms of consumption and production, developing new artistic expressions, moving abroad for short or long durations (or on the contrary reducing mobility). Put simply, major dissatisfaction with the economic system may enhance the strength and resources of those who set out to engage in alternative ways of dealing with it. These transformations in citizen practices (from adapted to alternative) under the culture of austerity are decisive for their future survival.
Accordingly, LIVEWHAT's theoretical framework allowed for studying resilience along the analytical continuum between the individual level of single citizens who learn how to “bounce back” and downplay the costs of crises, and the far-reaching forms of collective resilience aimed at entering the public domain so as to challenge inequities and foster common empowerment. In other words, individual and collective responses were not be considered as mutually exclusive strategies, but rather as a range of possible ways in which citizens may respond to economic crises as well as their social and political consequences. Such strategies may be pursued singularly or in various combined forms. Attention was thus focused on the broad range of coping strategies which European citizens might enact (or not) under the influence of a number of factors such as the scope of the crisis, policy responses to the crisis, public discourses about the crisis, and the individual characteristics of those who are hit by the crisis. The analysis of these factors was essential to understanding how crises affect people's life and, as a result, to advancing sound policies aimed at avoiding or alleviating their negative consequences.
Admittedly, crises especially threaten the everyday life of most deprived sectors of the population (e.g. low-skilled workers, precarious workers, working poor, unemployed, single mothers, migrants). Yet, particularly intense crises are also likely to affect those who are not exposed to insecurity during ordinary times, such as certain sectors of the middle class. This raises a number of crucial questions: Which citizens are affected by economic crises? Which kinds of citizens are affected by the policies deployed in response to such crises? What kind of effects can be observed? How do citizens respond to such situations? What measures and policies can policy-makers envisage to avoid or alleviate the negative consequences of economic and other types of crises? What leads citizens to develop modes and forms of resilience in times of crises – as opposed to fatalism or rejection of involvement in public life – is a fundamental issue for the whole of Europe and beyond.
Given this background, the overall aim of LIVEWHAT was to investigate the dynamics linking economic crises, policy responses, and citizens‟ resilience in terms of individual and collective responses. The project's comparative perspective also allowed for considering a number of intermediate contextual factors at national level for nine European countries (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom). In particular, a large cross-national comparison of this kind enabled LIVEWHAT researchers to consider relevant variations in terms of both the scope of the economic crisis and national characteristics of the institutional system. Focusing on the latter, LIVEWHAT took into consideration the structure of political opportunities that differentiates one country from the other so as to evaluate its impact upon levels, forms, and outcomes of citizens‟ resilience.
More specifically, the project tackled three main objectives:
- A descriptive objective: To provide systematic evidence of the ways in which European citizens respond to economic crises and to policy responses to such crises, both individually and collectively. This was achieved in particular through a multidimensional data collection that covers policy responses (e.g. policy measures, public discourses by political elites), individual responses (e.g. retreating into the private sphere, changing attitudes and behaviors), and collective responses (e.g. engaging in collective action, developing alternative forms of resilience).
- An explanatory objective: To advance knowledge on the connections between individual factors, contextual factors, and the ways in which European citizens respond to economic crises and to policy responses to such crises. This was achieved in particular through a research design that assesses the relationship between economic crises, policy responses, and citizens' resilience based on both observational and experimental data, while at the same time considering cross-national variations of economic crises and legal-institutional systems.
A practical and policy-oriented objective: To suggest a number of good practices as to how to deal with economic crises, both at the social and political level, through which their negative consequences on European citizens can be avoided or limited. This was achieved in particular through an articulated plan for the dissemination of results at the policy, public, and scientific level, including a summer school on the topic of the project, a documentary video on “citizens and the crisis,” and a handbook of good practices to cope with the negative consequences of economic crises.
Following from the project objectives, the main research questions tackled were the following:
- How do ordinary citizens respond to economic crises and to policy responses to such crises, both individually and collectively?
- At the individual level, how do such responses vary, depending on the social and cultural background of those affected by it?
- At the collective level, how do such responses vary across countries, depending on the intensity of crises and other country-specific characteristics such as the institutional setting and the strength of the civil society?
- What are the connections between economic crises, policy responses to such crises, and citizens' attitudes, values, aspirations, emotions, and behaviors (both political and nonpolitical)?
- How can citizens acquire the ability to develop resilience in the event of crises, rather than opting for fatalism or rejecting any involvement in public life?
The research questions were addressed by means of a variety of data and methods: a cross-national comparative dataset on economic, social, and political indicators; the analysis of policy responses, collective responses, and individual responses by private citizens to crises; lab and survey experiments designed to assess causal effects of different dimensions of crises on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors; and the analysis of alternative forms of resilience in times of crisis.
LIVEWHAT's scientific results and foreground derive from six main research work packages. These are:
- Work Package 1—Defining, Identifying, and Measuring Crises: This work package involved defining, identifying, and measuring crises by setting forward an operational definition and a set of indicators that enabled the researchers to detect and compare the impact of crises on European societies.
- Work Package 2—Policy Responses to Crises: The aim of this work package was to compare national policy responses to crises through interviews with policymakers and the study of secondary sources.
-Work Package 3—Collective Responses to Crises in the Public Domain: This work package aimed at examining collective responses to crises in the public domain through the analysis of political claims.
- Work Package 4—Individual Responses to Crises: The objective of this work package was to assess individual citizens’ perceptions and responses to crises through a nationwide survey in each of the countries studied in the project.
- Work Package 5—Causal Effects of Crises on Citizens’ Attitudes and Behaviors: This work package involved assessing causal effects of crises on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors by conducting laboratory and survey experiments.
- Work Package 6—Alternative Forms of Resilience in Times of Crisis: The aim of this work package was to detect Alternative Action Organizations (AAOs) involved in Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in times of crisis through an online survey of AAOs and interviews with key informants and to explain what these initiatives suggest for the impact of crises on vulnerable groups and communities.
LIVEWHAT's key results and foreground per work package are described in detail below.
Work Package 1—Defining, Identifying, and Measuring Crises:
Work Package 1—Defining, Identifying, and Measuring Crises conducted a preparatory research on defining, identifying, and measuring crises by looking at conceptual aspects. The analysis focused on the treatment of issues of definition of 'crisis', its meanings, and existing analyses in the literature and led to the compilation of a ‘Working paper on definition and identification of crisis'. According to the paper, in times of crises the difficulty of a situation, the urgency to take decisions and the causes and consequences of crises, are subject to actors' perceptions. There is no crisis other than the crisis actors speak about. In this respect, the paper argued for a knowledge-sociological perspective focusing on actors' position of speech and prevailing perceptions. Besides its conceptual focus, work package 1 developed a comparative dataset enabling researchers to capture the crisis quantitatively. The dataset provides country-level economic, social, and political indicators related to the economic crisis covering the period from 2005 of 2014 as well as individual-level indicators.
Work Package 2—Policy Responses to Crises:
Work Package 2—Policy Responses to Crises conducted a cross-country research that aimed to identify and inventory key changes relating to the legislation and policies enacted by policymakers as a response to the 2008 economic crisis and as a method of avoiding or limiting its negative consequences. The analysis covered the period from 2005 to 2014. It drew on the study of policy documents, jurisprudence, and interviews with key informants such as high-level public officials. The year 2005 is an important starting point because it allowed LIVEWHAT researchers to disentangle the reactions to the 2008 economic crisis and the earlier processes of legislative change. The countries studied included France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (UK). The results of the analysis are encapsulated in two reports: the ‘Report on legal analysis of rights depletion’ and the ‘Integrated report on policy responses to crises’.
Overall, in terms of legislative responses, key results of the research pertain to five main areas: 1) Employment protection is worse in Greece, Spain, and the UK, where the short period of prior notice given when an employment contract is terminated significantly increases the insecure position of employees. Some countries, such as Italy, provide good legal protection for only some groups of employees and have left the rights of temporary and precarious workers unprotected. The number of people in these two categories is, however, growing as a result of the economic crisis since 2008; 2) Conditions for the eligibility of unemployment benefits have become stricter. Fewer workers are entitled to benefits. Particularly significant changes have taken place in France, Greece, Sweden, and Switzerland; 3). Protection of social rights, especially eligibility for benefits in the case of sickness leave or measures for poverty alleviation, has been relatively stable since the economic crisis of 2008; 4). One positive change was identified: the increase of citizens’ rights to social security through more flexible and inclusive parental leave systems in several examined countries (e.g. Italy, Poland). These are expected to balance the otherwise negative trends in labor rights; 5). There is increasing willingness among the governing authorities to limit and regulate citizens’ use of the freedom of assembly in many countries, and in some cases this is a direct result of the numerous street demonstrations opposing austerity policies. From the perspective of protection of citizens’ fundamental rights, these trends call for further attention by civil society groups, scholars, and politicians.
More particularly, the analysis of national legislations found that three areas require attention in all, or nearly all, of the nine countries under study: labor rights, which are described in the legislation on employment protection, regulations of unemployment benefits, and laws regulating unionization and strikes; social rights, especially eligibility for benefits in the case of sickness leave or measures for poverty alleviation; and citizens’ fundamental rights of freedom of assembly, defining legal opportunities for citizens to react in public to governments’ austerity programs or other policy measures. Moreover, labor rights refer to employment protection rights, rights related to unemployment benefits, and rights to unionize and strike. Employment protection is measured in terms of the dismissal process, and these rights are relatively better protected in France, Germany, and Sweden. The analysis found that the situation is worse in Greece, Spain, and the UK, where the short period of prior notice given when an employment contract is terminated significantly increases the insecure position of employees. Some countries, such as Italy, provide good legal protection for only some groups of employees and have left the rights of temporary and precarious workers unprotected. The number of people in these two categories is, however, growing as a result of the economic crisis since 2008. Employment protection rights are the most inclusive in France, Germany, and Sweden and the most exclusive in Spain. Poland and the UK do slightly better than Spain thanks to the longer upper limit of the notice period. Italy does provide good protection to employees on paper, but the growing numbers of precarious workers who enjoy very limited labor rights place the country in the middle position of our comparison. The changes in Greece have depleted the rights of workers since 2010, but their general protection is still better than in the Spanish case. At the same time, the analysis showed that conditions for the eligibility of unemployment benefits have become stricter; fewer workers are entitled to benefits. Particularly significant changes have taken place in France, Greece, Sweden, and Switzerland. While in general changes are related to austerity policies, in Sweden (as well as in Switzerland and in Germany in the early 2000s) the economic crisis was not the direct cause of change. Rather, changes were due to the new center-right government, which came into power in Sweden in 2006. The changes tightened the conditions for being eligible for unemployment benefits, as well as increased the obligations to report to the unemployment office. The eligibility system in the UK is seen as the least strict, but since the introduction of Work Programme in 2011, the obligations of a jobseeker have significantly increased. The Spanish example, with its easy dismissals and relatively strict eligibility rules for unemployment benefits, demonstrates the clear failure of a flexicurity system. Finally, strike laws and the legal framework for collective bargaining have both been under pressure during the years of crisis, and this has resulted in real changes in Spain and the UK. The legal protection of collective action—unionization and strikes—has still not changed as much as has been the case for other forms of employment protection. In countries like Spain, rights have even been broadened, such as when the authorities gave migrant workers with work permits the right to strike in 2007.
In terms of social rights the analysis found that the protection of social rights, especially eligibility for benefits in the case of sickness leave or measures for poverty alleviation, have changed since 2005. However, our data suggest that social rights, in general, have changed less than labor rights. Rights for paid parental leave have increased or become more flexible (Poland, the UK, Sweden), whereas some sickness-related rights have become stricter (Germany, Greece, Spain), but there are also examples of how countries have tried to alleviate problems by introducing assistance and activation programs for those with low or no income (e.g. Sweden, the UK). In terms of the rights of freedom of assembly and association (freedom of assembly and association is one of the fundamental political rights, protected by both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the European Convention of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU) since 2009, Treaty of Lisbon), the analysis showed that, although all examined countries mention this right in their constitutions or in some major human-rights-related legislation, there are some minor differences in terms of mandatory prior notice or permission for public assemblies. In some of the examined countries these rules have been changed due to protests against austerity measures since the crisis of 2008.
Particularly important are some proposed and accepted legislative changes in Greece (2009–2013), Poland (2012), and the UK (2011). In Greece in 2009, the parliament banned the covering of activists’ faces during demonstrations. Moreover, one recent decree banned the occupation of entire roads and the interruption of traffic by small gatherings in cities with a population over 100,000. In Poland, there was a discussion about whether the existing fines for organizing a spontaneous (i.e. unregistered public assembly) are consistent with the constitution, and the Constitutional Tribunal (10.07.2008) decided that they are. The ruling did not lead to a more precise definition of spontaneous manifestation, as expected by the civil society; instead, the authorities proposed to prolong the period of prior notice from three to six days before the demonstration in 2012. The proposal was heavily criticized by the OSCE and local civil society, and the accepted legislation actually shortened the notice period by removing the phrase “working day” from the text. In the UK, the parliament adopted the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011, which was a direct response to the economic crisis-related Occupy movement. The law prohibited erecting or keeping erected in the controlled area of Parliament Square (i) any tent or (ii) any other structure designed or adapted (solely or mainly) for the purpose of facilitating sleeping or staying in a place for any period. Even here one can note the trend toward more limited opportunities for public assemblies. Although freedom of assembly and association are well protected by the constitutions of the examined countries, the described changes indicate a clear pressure to limit these rights. While the issue of security has been the reason for prior limitations, the new contemporary proposals seem to be inspired by numerous anti-austerity protests.
Overall, in terms of policy responses, the research in the examined fields—labor, retirement, health (including health care services for the disabled), social policies (including social aid, family and housing policies and costs for education) and tax policies—provided important foreground as to the following: 1). Crisis responses vary significantly across countries. In Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden, the effects of the crisis, as well as the related policy changes, have been moderate. While France has not gone unscathed through the crisis, its policy responses have not had a fundamental impact on labor market policy and social security systems. Both Poland and the UK have engaged in wide-ranging reforms to cut public spending. However, Poland has also taken steps toward a more inclusive welfare system, for example, by the introduction of paid parental leave and more affordable childcare. At the far end of the spectrum we find Italy, Spain, and most notably Greece. The reforms in Greece have been all embracing, leaving practically no section of society unaffected; 2). The reforms adopted in the nine countries have, in many cases, no direct relationship to the recent economic crisis. Some reforms, in particular the changes in pension systems, had been discussed for a long period of time before the crisis erupted in Europe. The crisis supplied an opportunity to adopt and implement such reforms as part of broader packages aimed toward decreasing debt and consolidating budgets, even if the short-term gains of reforms to attain such goals are sometimes negligible.
With respect to labor policies, particularly minimum wages and vacation, the analysis revealed that, with the exception of Greece, little or no changes to vacation rights and minimum wages have been enacted in the wake of the crisis. In Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland (with the exception of two cantons) there is no regulation of the law concerning minimum wage. Instead, wages are regulated through collective agreements with trade unions in particular sectors of the labor market. The reluctance to introduce minimum wages in these countries has been associated with fears that such levels would be lower than minimum wages established through collective agreements in individual professional sectors. However, whether or not minimum wages are seen as a viable option among the actors in the labor market is highly dependent on the wage-setting structures already in place. As for policies regarding vacations, with the exception of Greece, there have not been any significant changes in the countries studied by LIVEWHAT. In Greece, special allowances for Christmas and Easter holidays were reduced in 2011 and were completely abolished for public-sector employees in 2013 as part of cutting costs for public administration. In Spain, Switzerland, and the UK there were no significant changes regarding vacations during the period studied. Sweden reformed its legislation regarding vacations in 2010, restricting the vacation rights for employees who are ill for a long-term. Furthermore, with regard to rules and regulations on dismissals, Greece, Spain, and to some extent Italy have all enacted reforms since 2008 that have made it easier for employers to terminate contracts with redundant workers for economic reasons. In Greece, eligibility for severance pay upon dismissal has also been made more restrictive since 2010, excluding those who have been employed for less than 12 months. Efforts have also been made to facilitate the dismissal of public sector employees who were previously protected by law against dismissal. In Spain, 2010 and 2012 saw important labor market reforms, including changes in regulations regarding collective bargaining, with the aim of bringing wage developments closer to the actual levels of productivity. Reforms also allow companies more leeway in using internal flexibilization measures as an alternative to dismissals. Companies are now able to unilaterally change working conditions, such as hours of work, shifts, salary amounts, and functions when there are proven economic, technical, organizational, or production reasons. At the same time, regulations regarding dismissals for economic reasons have also been relaxed and rules for severance pay have been made less generous for employees. With the exception of Greece, Italy, and Spain, initial responses to the crisis were characterized by counter-cyclical measures, whereby the threat of dismissals was countered by different forms of subsidy to enable companies to retain their workforce or by programs aimed at assisting newly unemployed workers to find new employment. In countries such as Sweden, Poland, and more recently Switzerland, some social programs were introduced for dismissed labor.
As to unemployment insurance, the analysis showed that the insurance systems for unemployment vary across the LIVEWHAT countries, and in times of crisis such systems tend to experience additional strain. However, while wide-ranging reforms have indeed been enacted in some countries, they have not necessarily been prompted by the crisis. In Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and the UK, no wide-ranging reforms were enacted in relation to unemployment benefits or services to the unemployed specifically as a response to the crisis. However, in Switzerland a major reform of the unemployment insurance law was enacted in 2011, introducing, among other things, stricter eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits. Significant reforms were enacted in Swedish unemployment insurance in 2007, with increasing membership fees, reduced compensation levels, and stricter eligibility criteria. While the majority of these reforms remain, some relating to the funding of unemployment insurance were later reversed, as unwanted aspects became evident, especially the significant rise in uninsured workers. In Greece, successive, wide-ranging restrictions on the availability and levels of benefits have been enacted as part of the crisis measures imposed on the country to reduce public spending. The most important measure that has had a negative impact on the unemployed is the reduction of the basic unemployment benefit from €461 to €360 in 2012 (i.e. 22%), and the abolition of all special allowances added to this in 2013. Spain is also a country that, as part of further measures aimed toward budget consolidation, has introduced changes in unemployment benefits. A central aim of the 2012 labor reform was to rationalize unemployment insurance by improving targeting and conditionality. The threshold of the benefit was reduced from the seventh month to 50% of the last salary, reducing it 10 points from a previous 60% level. Additional obligations and control measures were also imposed in August 2013 on jobseekers for receiving payments. Poland, while largely maintaining eligibility criteria and benefit levels, saw a decrease in parts of the unemployment benefits concerning those living in areas with high unemployment.
With regard to retirement, significant changes in pension policies took place in France (2010–12), Germany (2007–2009), Greece (2010–11), Italy (2011–12), Poland (2009–13), Spain (2011–13), Sweden (2011), and the UK (2011–12). In Poland, through the pension reform in 2009, approximately 900,000 people lost their right to early retirement. The reforms limiting the possibility for early retirement were not prompted by the crisis per se but had been discussed since the 1990s and had been postponed for years. To the contrary, reforms to equalize and increase the retirement age were a result of the crisis in the sense that credit rating and favorable pricing for national debt depended on this reform. This was also the case for the shifting structure of the financing of pensions strongly influenced by the EU as part of reducing the budget deficit. Hence, all countries except Switzerland and Sweden have adopted changes with negative effects for those who work today.
Health and care services for disabled people was another area of investigation. In terms of the level of sickness benefits, the analysis found that the time period during which benefits are paid, and the conditions for receiving benefits, the general picture seems to indicate that these aspects of the welfare systems have been largely spared from wide-ranging cuts. While several systems have been made less generous, it seems that efforts toward budget consolidation have not primarily targeted social insurance benefits per se. Germany and Switzerland do not exhibit any significant changes. In Poland, minor changes were enacted in 2013, extending the eligibility for benefits to employees on “contract of mandate,” a type of contract used in Poland that for a long time afforded employees with limited social protection. In 2014, sickness benefit levels were also equalized across professional groups at 80%, decreasing the benefits of certain groups of public-sector employees from 100%. In France there have not been any significant changes. A 2012 reform equalized the number of qualifying days for receiving sickness benefits between public- and private-sector employees. This was subsequently revoked in 2014, so that the qualifying days in the private sector were removed and were raised from one to three days in the private sector. In Italy, several attempts have been made to more strictly control the sickness leave of public employees. In Sweden, a major reform of the social security system was enacted in 2008; it introduced strict time limits, lower benefits, and placed greater demands on individuals to shift into other professions if rehabilitation to regain their present employment exceeded six months. The UK stands out as the only country that applies a flat-rate sickness benefit, equal to about 17% of median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees. While there have not been any significant reforms in this system, there have been some extremely negative reactions in response to certain reforms following the crisis, especially among disabled people who have been hit by multiple cuts, the cumulative effects of which are still unclear. In Greece, the portion of citizens without medical insurance increased drastically during the crisis among unemployed as well as self-employed individuals who, due to excessive debts, have been excluded from social insurance funds.
Concerning general healthcare, the services provided by most countries among those studied do not exhibit any wide-ranging reforms. Spain changed eligibility conditions in 2012, lowering the minimum income to become insured in the noncontributory category and denying free healthcare to foreigners living illegally in the country. Patient fees for care and pharmaceuticals have remained largely constant in these countries during the period studied. Some countries have, however, reorganized the provisions of pharmaceuticals as part of reducing healthcare spending, which, in some cases, such as Spain and Greece, have led to increased contributions from patients. Poland reorganized its reimbursement system, though not primarily with the objective of curbing spending but, rather, to create a different structure for making pharmaceuticals available to the public. The most radical changes have occurred in Greece, where access to healthcare has been made increasingly restrictive in the wake of the crisis, partly due to the growing portion of the citizenry without adequate health insurance and partly due to the administrative cuts, which have, according to several respondents, put considerable strains on the organization of healthcare provision, affecting the quality of services and the waiting time for medical procedures. Organizational strains on healthcare provisions have also been an increasingly prominent feature in Spain in the wake of the crisis. When it comes to the provision of elderly care, apart from Spain (where there has been significant cuts in service provision), no significant reforms have taken place in the LIVEWHAT countries. These data should also be understood in view of the fact that countries such as Greece, Italy, and Poland have only to a limited degree, even before the crisis, provided services such as residential care for elderly persons, with families playing a more important role.
Apart from healthcare, social aid was also examined. The analysis revealed that poverty measures vary greatly across countries, and there are also very different traditions regarding how such aid should be organized. In Italy, the social funds financing services provided by local administrations to vulnerable groups were subjected to severe cuts by more than 90%. Elsewhere, measures for poverty alleviation (social wages, basic income allowances) have improved: In Germany, rent subsidies and heating allowances increased (2000–2011); in Greece, fuel, electricity, and heating subsidies have increased since 2013, as they have in Poland since 2012. There have been no significant changes in Sweden, where the major measure is economic aid assisting those who are not eligible for sufficient aid from the social or unemployment insurances. In Spain, the system of income support is related to the public budget at the regional or local level and differs as to what services are available and the level of support. Similarly, in Switzerland, the federal state is not involved in poverty measures; these are administered at the cantonal level.
With regard to housing allowances, the analysis showed that even though in Greece the authorities stopped all housing-related auctions during 2014, the system of housing benefits for workers was abolished. In the UK, a rescue scheme for homeowners was adopted in 2008, but this did not include any help for tenants. In Italy, a plan to help low-income mortgage owners was introduced in 2009, but it was the initiative of banks rather than the state. Economic aid is generally limited to covering the absolute minimum subsistence level, and as a general characterization the data indicate that poverty-alleviation-related policies were not significantly reduced with the crisis. The exception among these countries has been the UK, where housing benefits have decreased since 2013. Also, reforms were made in the UK to curtail the ability for lone parents to receive income support. Previously, unemployed single parents were eligible for income support until their oldest child was 16. Beginning in 2012, single parents with a youngest child aged five or above have been unable to claim income support and are expected to find employment.
Further on, the analysis of family policies gave rise to key results. In particular, recent developments in the field of family policies show a positive change: the increase of citizens’ rights to social protection through more flexible and inclusive parental leave systems in several examined countries (e.g. Italy, Poland). These are expected to balance the otherwise negative trends in labor rights. In particular, employment protection during parental leave is strong, as in all the examined countries employers are not allowed to dismiss pregnant women or any employee on parental leave. Still, there some problematic practices. In Spain, there are numerous cases where temporary contracts are not renewed, while in Italy women who become pregnant or stay at home with children are often dismissed with the help of a previously signed so-called dimissioni in bianco (“blank resignation letter”). It is important to note that only working or insured (i.e. those in the social registry) parents are eligible for paid parental leave in the majority of the countries. The rules in Switzerland are particularly strict, requiring that women must have worked for five months of the pregnancy. Only in France and Sweden are there no specific employment-related requirements for eligibility. This is particularly beneficial for immigrant families, who often do not have any working history in their new homeland. With regard to child allowances, the analysis showed that child allowances have, in most LIVEWHAT countries, been left more or less unaffected by crisis measures. An important change was introduced in Spain as part of the Spanish crisis response, with the 2010 abolition of the one-time, flat-rate, universal subsidy given upon the birth of child, amounting to €2,500. Child allowances that remain in Spain are means-tested and eligible for households with low incomes. Child allowances in Italy and Poland, as well as eligibility for tax credits, are also means-tested. However, income tax relief aimed at families is dependent on whether one actually has an income or not: People with lower income levels will get less relief, while higher earners will get tax credits that they actually do not need. France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland have universal, flat-rate child allowances calculated only based on the number of children in a particular household. The flat-rate allowance in the UK was slightly restricted in 2013, excluding high-income recipients. Eligibility for the means-tested tax credit was also made more restrictive in 2012 by introducing a lower income threshold. In Germany, a €100 one-time bonus for families was paid in 2009 as part of an economic growth package in the wake of the crisis in order to boost the economy. Other than this, there were no significant changes in policy. Greece has generally moved from universal to means-tested allowances for families, which replaced the general family allowance in 2012.
The costs of education was yet another area where the analysis focused. Key results show that significant changes have taken place in several countries. In Italy, there were significant cuts in state-funded education during the period 2008–2012. This particularly affected universities, which in turn had to increase tuition fees. In Spain, the salaries of teachers have repeatedly been subjected to cuts, while the workload has increased as a result of austerity measures to curb public spending. In Poland, a general right to preschool was introduced in 2009, and beginning in 2017, children of age three to four years will have the right to preschool education. Changes have also taken place in Poland regarding fees, which have lowered due to reforms in 2010 and 2013. In the UK, a 2014 reform allowed children of age two to attend preschool without a fee for 15 hours/week. However, the implementation of this rule is conditioned by the availability of public funds. On the other hand, in 2010, support for students from low-income households was abolished and finances were diverted to schools instead (except in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). In Poland, means-tested support remains available, and in Sweden, transport to school is paid by municipalities if it is considered necessary due to the distance (rural communities mainly). In Greece, drastic cuts in education have affected primary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions through significantly reduced budgets as well as a diminishing number of job positions.
Finally, the analysis on tax policies founds that tax systems have been subjected to drastic reforms in response to the crisis in Greece and Spain and, to a lesser extent, Italy and the UK. In Greece, income tax was increased, and authorities also increased consumer taxes (VAT, energy) in 2005 and 2010. Italy also increased VAT and energy taxes (2011–12) and introduced tax bonuses for low-income workers (2014). Similar changes have taken place in Spain, where the VAT was increased and top income tax increased to 50%. In Spain, a trend was initiated in 2007 whereby tax rates were raised and the tax system was made more progressive, ranging from 24% up to 47% for incomes exceeding €175,000. Reforms in 2014 were, however, set to reduce the overall progressiveness of the system. Sweden lowered its VAT in restaurants, aiming to encourage restaurants to employ more workers and thereby reduce high unemployment among the youth and newly arrived immigrants. Swedish taxes on wages have also been lowered markedly in successive steps since 2007. Sweden introduced reforms regarding income tax and VAT, though not primarily as an answer to the crisis. Recently, reforms were also introduced in Italy whereby employees with earnings less than €26, 000/year were given a tax bonus. No wide-ranging reforms were initiated in France, Germany, Poland, or Switzerland.
Work Package 3—Collective Responses to Crises in the Public Domain:
Work Package 3—Collective Responses to Crises in the Public Domain conducted a cross-country research that examined how European citizens have reacted to the economic crisis by intervening as organized, collective actors through claims-making in the public sphere. Through the use of political claims analysis, the research examined national public debates about the economic crisis in nine European countries, namely, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. In particular, claims were coded by random sampling of about 1,000 claims per country selected from five newspapers in each country and covering the period from 2005 to 2014. All articles containing any of the three words “crisis,” “recession,” or “austerity” were selected and coded, to the extent that they referred to the recent economic crisis. Moreover, claims made by, or targeted at, the EU or a European actor/addressee were identified in order to capture the visibility of the EU in the national public spheres of the nine countries over the course of the economic crisis (2008–2014). The results of the analysis are encapsulated in a special issue in Politics and Policy entitled: Citizens’ Responses to the Economic Crisis, Volume 44, Issue 3.
Overall, key results of the work package 3 analysis provide evidence for the following: 1). National discourses have been highly competitive in environments in which actors compete for public visibility, resonance, and legitimacy. The economic crisis has provided a political arena wherein the classic performance of contentious politics is delivered between powerful political insiders on the one hand and different types of outsider publics on the other; 2). All the nine countries examined show very low levels of European visibility in their national debates—with some variations. The low presence of the EU in the national debates in the UK may be due to the high levels of Euroscepticism that exist in the country; the low presence of the EU in the national debates in Switzerland may be due to the country’s broader global financial interdependence. Other data, however, are difficult to decipher: For instance, national debates in Spain and Italy (countries highly affected by the crisis) display lower degrees of European presence than those in Sweden (a country not significantly affected by the crisis); 3) The visibility of the EU and European issues in the national debates does not seem to be directly related to the severity of the economic crisis or to the harshness of public policy retrenchment in the different European countries. The higher levels of EU presence in the national debates in Germany might well be linked to the country’s leading role in the EU during the economic crisis, to its position as a creditor in the debt crisis, and to the internal use that German national actors have made of the country’s leading role in the EU. In this respect, it should also be inquired whether the moderate levels of European visibility in France reflect its difficulties in co-leading the European project during crisis years.
In particular, the results suggest that the economic crisis reduced the space available for economic actors in the public domain to voice their concerns. In countries hit hardest by the crisis, the percentage of claims by economic actors was three times lower than it was in countries less affected by the economic crisis. Germany stands out for its elite-based and state-centric nature of claims-making. In this country, the public domain is especially shaped by policy actors, with only some minor interventions from economic interests and civil society. By contrast, Italy stands out for its stronger bottom-up dynamics taking place in the public domain. Accordingly, we find the presence of a much more vociferous civil society that stands against the more silent state actors and economic interests. Poland also shows an extensive presence of civil society actors in the public domain. Yet the most noticeable figure in this case refers to the outstanding visibility of professional organizations (unequalled in any other country). This figure is thus consistent with the high visibility of economic actors in the Polish case. Yet, only the Swedish case is characterized by a strong prevalence of economic interests on the one hand vis-à-vis both policy actors and civil society on the other. The visibility of economic actors is also evident for both Switzerland and the UK, with a stronger role for civil society actors in the UK and a stronger role of state actors in Switzerland. Lastly, France provides an interesting case for seizing the specific role of labor representatives, group-specific organizations, and welfare NGOs of a different kind as the highest proportion of claims by civil society actors.
Also, the results suggest that claims-making over macroeconomics, labor and unemployment, social policy, economic activities, and domestic commerce have dominated national debates across all countries, irrespective of variations in the intensity of the economic crisis. The data show an interesting crescendo over labor and employment between countries of weak and strong crisis, respectively. It is also noticeable that a comparable pattern can be detected for other less debated issues, in particular international affairs. Spain and the UK stand out as the two opposite poles with the highest and lowest claims-making over macroeconomic issues, respectively. Italy is the country where discussion over labor and employment has been the most intense, while France stands out for its unparalleled claims-making over economic activities and domestic commerce. Lastly, German actors pay no attention whatsoever to issues of social policy.
Further on, the analysis indicate that economic causes have prevailed, especially in contexts of weak crisis, with political causes standing out in contexts of strong crisis. Economic causes have been singled out across all the countries. The major exception to this trend is Italy, where legal, administrative, and regulatory causes have taken the lion’s share. Greece also provides some discordant voices within the group, owing to the important presence of political causes in the public debate. In addition to this, the results show that France and Germany show some similarities, owing to the important percentage of blame directed at economic actors. Yet, the same cannot be said about other expected combinations. Thus, Greece, Italy, and Spain are quite dissimilar from each other (with the economic actors taking a crucial share of the blame only in Italy), while the situation in the UK is closer to that of France and Germany. Most crucially, Switzerland stands out for the highest percentage of blaming of economic actors: For every two claims reaching the public domain, there has been an economic actor being blamed. What is more, the analysis indicate that the two countries characterized by a Continental welfare state—France and Germany—stand together on the same pole made of extensive claims-making over institutional actors. Poland confirms its strong liberal–residual developments by standing, side by side with Switzerland, on the opposite pole of scarce claims-making. The countries following the Southern model—Greece, Italy, and Spain—are also similar. The UK is the only country left out from conventional knowledge, as it shows more similarities with the Southern countries than with the liberal–residual pole (as one may expect). Yet, nation-specific figures referring to economic actors and civil society do not fit the same comparative pattern. Thus, economic actors have extensively been taken as the object of claims in Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the UK, while civil society actors bring Poland together with Greece and Italy. Another underlying result is that in some countries, claims-making has still focused on the old cleavage between work and capital (Greece and Italy), while in others it has been rooted in a post-capitalist context (UK and Spain to a minor extent).
Finally, the work package 3 analysis has provided foreground as to EU visibility in national debates. The analysis revealed differentiated levels of visibility of the EU across the nine countries examined. The differentiated pattern of German debates stands out: European claims steeply ascended between 2008 (9%) and 2013 (66%), surpassing non-European claims and remaining stable at high levels from that year onward. Greek (10% in 2008 up to 30% in 2013) and Swiss (3% in 2008 up to 20% in 2014) European claims show steadily ascending trends. The analysis also showed peaks of European claims in Sweden in 2012 (30%) and to a lesser extent in France (22%) and the UK (11%) in 2011. For the rest, Italy, Poland, and Spain present no significant variations in the low trends of European visibility. Altogether, European visibility has somehow been higher in the Italian debates (fluctuating between its lowest, 11%, in 2009 and its highest, 18%, in 2014) than in Polish (lowest, five%, in 2010 and highest, 12%, in 2011) or Spanish (lowest, 5%, in 2008 and 2009 and highest, 13 %t, in 2012) debates.
Work Package 4—Individual Responses to Crises:
Work Package 4—Individual Responses to Crises conducted a cross-country research related to individual perceptions, evaluations, and responses to crises by private citizens. LIVEWHAT researchers developed a survey questionnaire to address key issues related to European citizens’ perceptions of and responses to the crisis and, with the help of a specialized polling company (YouGov), collected data from across the nine European countries in the project, namely, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. Issues examined involved the following questions: What do ordinary citizens consider a situation of economic crisis? How do they perceive it? How do they react to crises? Who is most affected by crises? To what extent are social and political attitudes related to crises? To what extent are social and political behaviors related to crises? To what extent are the family and social lives of people affected by crises? The survey was conducted in 2015 and involved a minimum of 2,000 respondents in each country. The results of the analysis are encapsulated in a report entitled: ‘Integrated report on individual responses to crises.’
Overall, key results of the work package 4 analysis can be summarized as follows: 1). Countries tend to be differentiated in their public perceptions of the crisis and responses to it on the basis of whether the crisis was deeper or lighter. Countries where the crisis was lighter, as might be expected, were more positive about economic conditions and less worried about the crisis. This is not surprising because they also had to suffer fewer consequences, such as having to make drastic cutbacks in consumption, including staples such as food or medications and visits to the doctor. Yet, the situation was more serious in those countries hit harder by the crisis; 2). Satisfaction levels in four policy fields—poverty, unemployment, precarious employment, and immigration—vary by the national context and whether the country experienced a deep or lighter economic crisis. Satisfaction levels were particularly low in Southern European countries—most notably in Greece—as opposed to satisfaction levels reported in the Continental, Scandinavian, and Anglo-Saxon countries; 3). Citizens’ evaluations of relative standards of living show stark differences between North and South Europe. For example, when examining how respondents felt about their own situation relative to that of their parents, most citizens in Continental, Scandinavian, and Anglo-Saxon countries believed their living standards were better, compared to a third of respondents in the Mediterranean and Southern countries, including France, Greece and Italy, and about half in Spain; 4). Perceptions of country living conditions relative to other countries also vary across country setting. A small to moderate proportion of citizens in Mediterranean and Southern countries rated living conditions in their own country as good, compared to an overwhelming majority in Continental, Scandinavian, and Anglo-Saxon countries. Also, reductions were more widespread in Southern European countries as opposed to the Continental, Scandinavian, and Anglo-Saxon countries of our sample, which were not much affected by the crisis.
Beginning with examining satisfaction with how the government addresses different areas of policy, the figures showed that, in general, citizens in countries that experienced a milder crisis tend to have higher levels of satisfaction with how the government addresses the economy. However, it is notable that, even in those countries in which levels of satisfaction with the way in which the government addresses the economy are relatively higher, only in one country, namely Switzerland, are more than half of respondents satisfied. As one might expect, the lowest levels of satisfaction are to be found in European countries hardest hit by the crisis, such as Greece (9.8%), Italy (14.5%), and Spain (17.7%), with France also registering low levels (15%). Despite only experiencing a weak crisis, levels of satisfaction with the government’s running of the economy are still only less than 30% in Poland and Sweden. In terms of the other economic policy areas linked to the possible wider economic negative effects of the crisis on citizens, particularly more vulnerable groups–poverty, unemployment, and precarious employment–we can see that once again, satisfaction levels are particularly low in Greece, below 10%. This is also the case for immigration. Across all eight policy areas, the proportion satisfied in Greece never reaches a level more than 12%, with welfare areas of education, healthcare, and childcare scoring marginally higher than the other areas. In general, the lowest satisfaction levels can be found in southern Europe, particularly so for the areas of immigration and economic policy, particularly those related to the support of marginalized groups, such as the poor, unemployed and those in precarious employment conditions (or the precariat).
When asked to compare their living standards to those of their parents, only in Germany, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK did the majority believe their living standards were better. The figures showed that, only approximately a third of respondents agreed with this position in France, Greece, and Italy and approximately half in Spain. Considering the advances in science and technology in the last few decades, it is quite telling that in approximately half of the countries, respondents felt that their own living conditions were worse than those of their parents. When asked about their household or economic situations compared to five years prior, only in one country, Sweden, did the majority of respondents feel the situation was better. This was followed by approximately half in Germany; 40% in Switzerland and the UK; 38% in Poland; 23–24% in France, Italy, and Spain; and at the very bottom, only 7% of respondents in Greece. The patterns are similar for the country economy evaluations, with the UK and Germany with the highest proportions–though still less than half–of individuals thinking the economy had improved in the last year and Greece with the lowest. When turning to the future, France was the most pessimistic, whereas Britain and Spain were the most optimistic countries.
In terms of perceptions of country living conditions relative to other countries, the results showed that once again, Greece is at the bottom of the list with only 10% rating the living conditions in their own country as good. This was followed by approximately 20% of Italians saying that living conditions in their country are good, 33% in Spain, 25% in Poland, 43% in France, and 70% or more in Germany, the UK, Sweden, and Switzerland, with the highest score at 76%. Moving onto the ways in which Europeans see living conditions in each other’s countries, we can see that the living conditions in France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK tend to be seen in quite a positive light. However, living conditions in Greece tend to be seen as quite dire. Somewhere in the middle are Italy, Poland, and Spain.
With regard to perceptions of crisis, by and large, the results showed that in countries experiencing a deeper crisis, the proportion of individuals who report that the crisis is very serious are higher, e.g. 89% in Greece, 79% in Italy, 73% in Spain, and 67% in France. However, these proportions are lower in those countries where the crisis is not as serious: 38% in the UK, 23% in Poland, 18% in Germany, 16% in Sweden, and 14% in Switzerland. Moreover, the results showed that the proportion of individuals in various countries who must make reductions in consumption as a result of the crisis. A sign of the severity of the crisis is that in Greece, 65% of individuals had to make reductions even in the consumption of staple foods. By and large, reductions were more present in countries hardest hit by the crisis, as might be expected: 90% reduced recreational activities in Greece, 76% reduced the use of cars, 74% delayed utility payments, 27% had to move home, 61% could not pay back loans, 17% had to sell assets, 37% had to cut media connections, 74% did not go on holiday, and 63% had to reduce buying medicines or seeing a doctor. These are stark statistics for an advanced industrialized nation and show the severity of the crisis in Greece. Reductions were also quite widespread in Italy and Spain, particularly in terms of recreational holidays; additionally, 43% of Italians said they had to cut back on staple foods, and 40% could not buy medicines or see the doctor. On the other end of the scale, reductions were much less severe in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and the UK.
With respect to the approval of various economic measures to address the economic crisis, the figures showed that increasing government oversight and regulation and reducing the budget deficit tend to be the most popular options. In particular, the latter is popular in the UK, Sweden, and France, and the former is popular in Greece, Spain, France, Sweden, and the UK. Increasing government spending is seen favorably in Greece, Poland, Spain, and the UK. Giving financial support to the banks tends to be more unpopular as a measure. As for aspects of citizens’ resilience in times of crisis, the results showed that when it comes to looking for creative ways to alter difficult situations, Greek, Italian, and Swiss citizens see themselves as particularly resilient. This is partially good news, as two of these countries are hardest hit by the current economic crisis. Greeks, Italian, and the Swiss also stand out with respect to seeing themselves as actively looking for ways to replace the losses encountered in life. The German, Polish, Swiss, and UK respondents see themselves as the most capable of dealing with stressful events, whereas the French, Italians, Polish, and Swiss see themselves as most active in their communities. The Germans and Swiss feel most united with the larger community in which they live.
Work Package 5—Causal Effects of Crises on Citizens’ Attitudes and Behaviors:
Work Package 5—Causal Effects of Crises on Citizens’ Attitudes and Behaviors conducted a cross-country research on the causal effects of different dimensions of crises on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors. LIVEWHAT researchers conducted six lab and seven survey experiments with individual citizens in two countries with contrasting economic conditions, Spain and Switzerland. The aim of the experimental research was to study the causal mechanisms linking situations of economic crisis and their consequences on citizens. The field work occurred in Spain and Switzerland from June 2014 to September 2016 and combined both convenience and representative samples. With the lab experiments (five conducted in Spain and one in Switzerland), which included games, pseudo-games and vignette designs), LIVEWHAT researchers were able to manipulate individual economic conditions and assess their effects. Concurrently, the survey experiments, which were embedded in three different online surveys, were used to treat perceptions about contextual economic conditions to see how they affect outcomes of interest. The results of the analysis are encapsulated in a report entitled: 'Integrated report on causal relationships between crises and their consequences on citizens.’
Overall, key results of the work package 5 analysis read as follows: 1). Individuals’ economic experiences and perceptions of the fairness of inequalities spurred by the crisis play a key role in shaping citizens’ support for welfare-state redistribution. If deprivation is deep, then frustration, distrust, and dissatisfaction might find expression in collective action and protest activity; 2). Collective action or, more generally, political participation in its different modes has been found to be significantly affected by economic crisis in different ways. Deprivation enhances participation in collective action only when it is group-based and reduces it when it is strictly personal. This effect of collective deprivation is channelled through moral outrage and is independent from the cost of collective action; 3). The crisis affects national identity and nationalism in different ways for high-and low-status individuals. Those belonging to the lower classes become more nationalistic when exposed to information about their country losing its economic status as a country. Conversely, individuals belonging to the upper-middle classes become less so. This aids in the understanding of the micro-mechanisms behind the idea that ethnonationalist responses to the economic crisis are widely dispersed at these times, especially among those who the economic crisis more seriously affects; 4). There is a limited effect of the level of inequality vis-a-vis support for the EU. What matters is the priming effect of talking about poverty, which depresses some of the indicators of support for the EU and trust in its institutions; 5). Support for redistribution varies depending on the framing of the crisis exposure. Participants who believe that crisis-related losses are mostly associated with greedy or risky behavior related to real-estate investments are consistently less willing to accept a tax increase to compensate for the income loss of those most severely affected by the crisis.
As part of work package 5 a number of experiments were conducted, i.e.:
Experiment 1: Income inequality, fairness considerations, and citizens’ preferences for redistribution. This lab experiment was conducted in Spain, and it aimed to study how changes in citizens’ perceptions of the fairness of inequalities the economic crisis has caused affect preferences for redistribution. One of the main consequences of the crisis has been a significant increase in income inequality. Recent policy data show that during the crisis, income inequality increased, even if it followed a long-term trend. From 2008, the average income was dropped in all income deciles. However, those at the bottom 10% of the income structure have fared worse than the median earners and much worse than the top earners. Labour-income reduction has been mainly due to the increase in unemployment rates. Can these changes generate a change in people’s preferences for redistribution? This was a central question addressed by the LIVEWHAT researchers in this lab experiment. The experimental design was based on an economically incentivised game in which participants chose a preferred tax rate under different circumstances. Participants’ initial endowment, the level of inequality among participants, and the source of this inequality were manipulated. Participants were offered the chance to choose a flat tax rate that would be used to redistribute what would be collected among all participants, thus reducing the initial inequality. Each participant chose the tax under different circumstances, first as an unaffected participant who was not affected by the tax they decided to choose and second as an affected participant under risk–that is, without knowing at which position in the income-inequality structure the person was. Finally, as a fully informed affected participant, that is, after having been informed about his/her actual position in the income-inequality structure. In this way, LIVEWHAT researchers were able to analyze the interaction between fairness considerations and self-interest and insurance motives. Moreover, there were two different inequality structures. Half of the participants were exposed to a high inequality structure, whereas the other half was exposed to a low inequality structure. The results showed a significant impact of fairness consideration on redistribution preferences. The data indicate that citizens’ support for redistribution is higher when inequality depends on factors outside individuals’ control, such as on changes in economic circumstances created by crises. Specifically, higher redistribution is preferred when inequality is caused by luck or social background as compared to when it is caused by merit. However, no evidence was found with regard to higher support for redistribution in socially caused inequality than in inequality caused by luck. Similarly, the results showed that, at least in this setting, the level of inequality did not trigger a statistically different level of support for redistribution. These data suggest that beliefs and discourses based on the attribution of the responsibility of individuals to their own fates might be a key element in shaping individuals’ preferences for redistribution. In the context of the economic crisis, the conception of who and why has been mainly affected by the crisis might lead to different support for redistribution. Additionally, the results show that self-interest and, to a lesser extent, insurance motives contribute to shaping individuals’ support for redistribution. However, these considerations moderate but do not suppress the effect of fairness considerations.
Experiment 2: Deprivation and collective action. This lab experiment, which was conducted in Spain, explored the effects of economic deprivation on political participation. The economic crisis has reduced economic resources for many citizens. In Spain, public workers have suffered cuts in salaries (an average of 5%), the purchasing power of citizens and household expenditures has been severely reduced, and the poverty gap has widened. In this respect, LIVEWHAT researchers used a simulated game experiment that induced three forms of deprivation to test the extent to which a loss of resources disincentivizes political participation or, in contrast, generates perceptions of injustice and emotional reactions that encourage participation in protest. The results showed that deprivation is related to higher levels of protest only when it is collective but reduces collective action when it is personal. More specifically, deprivation (a loss of resources that affects everyone) and relative deprivation (a loss of resources that affects a random selection of participants) reduce collective action, as individuals who lose their earnings prefer to continue playing to restore their own losses instead of participating in a collective campaign to restore everyone’s earnings by protesting unfair conditions. These data are aligned with expectations regarding deprivation but are contrary to expectations regarding relative deprivation. Individuals are more likely to engage in collective action only when intergroup discrimination (when participants are deprived because of their gender) produces deprivation. The results also showed that moral outrage is a key mediating factor to understanding the behavior of individuals who are collectively deprived. These effects seem to be independent of the cost of joining the protest.
Experiment 3: Economic crisis and national identification. This survey experiment sought to assess the impact that the loss of economic status of the nation and the “blaming the EU” strategy has on three attitudes: nationalism, national identification, and national pride. Over the last few years, many European countries such as Spain have gone through severe economic crises. Some of these countries have also witnessed the electoral success of existing and new radical right parties. Media commentators have interpreted the success of these parties as a symptom of a more general malaise, nationalism, which has mainly touched those who are economically vulnerable. Exogenous shocks, such as economic crises, have hindered the nation’s international and internal prestige and damaged its status, making national identity less attractive. Governments have attempted to offset the negative impact that economic crises have on citizens’ assessment of the nation by promoting nationalism to divert citizens’ attention from these problems by emphasizing aspects in which the nation excels (e.g. sports, culture) or by blaming others for the bad shape of the economy, e.g. the EU or the International Monetary Fund. Against this background, LIVEWHAT researchers addressed three questions: does nationalism increase with economic crisis? Do exonerative strategies pointing to the responsibility of a significant other for the economic crisis increase nationalism? Is the effect of an economic crisis unconditional, or is it stronger among those whom it seriously affects? The experimental design manipulated both the loss of the nation’s economic status and the attribution of responsibilities to a third party (the EU) regarding the loss of economic status experienced in Spain. The evidence indicates that lower social class respondents identify more strongly with Spain and that they become more nationalist and prouder to be Spanish when both treatments are present. The effect is the opposite among high-income people and people who belong to the upper or upper-middle class, and there is no direct or indirect impact of blame attribution on nationalist attitudes for the unemployed. These data appear to suggest that, in difficult economic times, people with a low economic status seek shelter in the nation, and people with a high economic status turn their backs on it.
Experiment 4: Inequalities in Europe and attitudes towards the EU. This survey experiment studied how citizens’ perceptions of inequality between member states of the EU shape attitudes toward European institutions and the process of European integration. Some scholars have offered evidence that in the process of European integration, member states have lost some of their national economic sovereignty and have loosened labour protection As a consequence, member states have been exposed to greater economic risks, including unemployment and poverty, and rising income inequality. The link between European integration and economic inequality suggests that citizens may hold European institutions responsible for rising inequality and may thus be less favourable of further integration. A handful of studies has examined the link between levels of within-nation inequality and attitudes toward European institutions or the degree to which citizens assign blame to European institutions for rising levels of inequality at home. Scholars find that the increase in income inequality at home is associated with increasing Euroskepticism, particularly among citizens with lower levels of formal education. Although these studies evince a link between increasing levels of income inequality and European institutions, they give us little information about how inequality at the European level–that is, between member states–influences attitudes toward Europe. To address this issue, LIVEWHAT researchers utilized an experimental design that exposed individuals randomly to two groups of graph bars picturing the poverty rates across EU countries. In the inequality treatment, the differences in poverty rates in the EU were large, whereas in the equality treatment, the differences were insignificant. The results showed that perceptions of inequality weaken opinions toward the EU. However, differences between perceptions of inequality between member states are mostly unable to explain detachment from the EU, except for trust in the EU and European Central Bank.
Experiment 5: Framing of crisis consequences and support for redistribution. This survey experiment examined whether the framing of the crisis, affecting different groups, leads to different levels of support for redistribution. Recent research argues that in the context of the economic recession, an increased number of citizens feel economically insecure. This increased insecurity triggers self-insurance motives and leads to an increase in the level of support for redistribution for self-insurance motives. However, an extensive amount of literature challenges the assumptions that citizens base their preferences for redistribution solely on their self-interests or on self-insurance motives. Some authors have claimed that individuals often consider the welfare of others in their preferences for redistribution. In the context of the recent economic crisis, the risk of losing income has increased. Several discourses around the crisis have presented the distribution of this shock as depending on four different factors: bad luck, previous socioeconomic status, lack of effort, or greed. According to these interpretations, those affected by the crisis would have varying levels of responsibility for their situations. In the first two cases, those who suffered the consequences of the economic shock had no responsibility for their fate. In contrast, when greed or a lack of effort determined who received the shock, individuals could be held responsible for their situations. In this context, LIVEWHAT researchers differentiated between two different circumstances for each level of responsibility. They differentiated between luck and social background to verify whether there are differences in attitudes to redistribution when the cause is external to the individual but caused by luck or social circumstances. Similarly, greed and a lack of effort are two different behaviors deemed punishable. The experiment sought to assess to what extent they trigger different levels of support for redistribution. The experiment was run in Spain and Switzerland, thus assessing the effect of more contextually rich treatments. The experimental design exposed individuals randomly to one of four arguments regarding who was most affected by the crisis (luck, social background, effort, greed). LIVEWHAT researchers looked at a very specific type of redistribution: one that compensated those who had experienced loss as a consequence of the economic crisis, which can be distinguished from other forms of redistribution or social assistance. The evidence confirmed that support for redistribution varies depending on the framing of the crisis exposure. Participants who believe that crisis-related losses are mostly associated with greedy or risky behavior related with real-estate investments are consistently less willing to accept a tax increase to compensate the income loss of those most affected by the crisis. All other framings of the crisis losses do not produce a significant change in respondents’ willingness to redistribute. Additionally, the results showed that when crisis losses are represented as stemming from factors that are beyond the control of individuals, there seems to be more support for redistribution, but this is only significant with respect to greed. Finally, the results showed that when economic difficulties are due to greedy behaviour, the willingness to contribute via taxes to support the needed is higher than when economic difficulties are caused by a lack of effort.
Work Package 6—Alternative Forms of Resilience in Times of Crisis:
Work Package 6—Alternative Forms of Resilience in Times of Crisis conducted a cross-country research on alternative action organizations (AAOs) and their impact on vulnerable groups and communities. AAOs fall within the spectrum of the emerging social and solidarity economy (SSE). AAOs are everywhere and refer to varying forms of cooperative, associative, and solidarity relations. They include, for example, cooperatives, mutual associations, NGOs, self-help groups, barter networks, food banks, free medical services, soup kitchens, new cooperatives, associations of informal sector workers, social enterprises, and fair trade organizations and networks. Although the recent economic crisis, growing inequality, and social exclusion of vulnerable groups have prompted an intense interest among scholars, practitioners, activists, and policymakers on the meaning and trajectory of the SSE as a distinctive model of economic growth, we know far less about European AAOs, how their aims and activities unfold, and how they have navigated times of crisis. To fill this void, LIVEWHAT researchers gathered data on AAOs in nine European countries: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. Methodologically, the researchers relied on the following: (i) mapping and analysis of AAOs through online media sources (a random sample of 4.297 AAOs, approximately 500 in each country, was selected and studied), (ii) conduction of an online survey based on a random sample of 500 AAOs, and (iii) qualitative personal interviews with 20 participants and initiators of AAOs in each country. The results of the analysis are encapsulated in a report entitled: ‘Integrated report on alternative forms of resilience in times of crises’.
Overall, key results of the work package 6 analysis include: 1). The effects of the recent economic crisis–unemployment, exclusion, inequality, and poverty–have obliged European citizens to rethink the ways in which organized communities meet social needs. The needs of large groups in society in crisis-affected and in countries less affected by crisis are neither met effectively by conventional markets nor the state. One product of this rethinking has been the emergence of AAOs–formal and informal groups with primarily social objectives–as part of a growing SSE; 2). AAOs were found to complement other channels of providing goods and services. Recent crisis has exacerbated immediate emergency needs for vulnerable groups in all nine countries LIVEWHAT studied. The highest prevalence of increased demand for food programs (e.g. free meals food banks) and free material support (e.g. clothes, shoes) and for free health care (e.g. medical exams, medicines, vaccines) and debt counseling (e.g. mortgage problems) is reported in Greece and for homeless services in Sweden and in Greece. These social impacts have intensified the AAOs’ support, including the reintegration of vulnerable groups into society and working lives and the extension of social welfare and protection through the provision of essential goods and services; 3). AAOs in all nine countries studied share common features that distinguish them from the public economy and conventional for-profit economy. Driven primarily by social-benefit motives as opposed to capital accumulation, these organizations are largely “people-centered.” They all aim to pursue combined social and economic objectives, and they share specific operating principles based on participation, solidarity, mutual help, voluntary involvement, and collective ownership; 4). Participation and membership in AAOs contribute to an empowerment process, individually and collectively. Participants and beneficiaries gain empowerment through their active involvement in the participatory decision-making process within and outside of the organization when they bargain with external stakeholders.
More specifically, the analysis showed that AAOs are characterized by diverse organizational forms, domains of activities, and approaches within and across countries. Two clear patterns and two individual cases can be identified. The first, the “South European” pattern, representing Greece, Italy, France, and Spain, encompasses the highest frequencies of informal and protest groups (from 44–47%), followed by lower frequencies of NGOs (3–27%), social economy groups (6.5–31%), and church and charity organizations(0.2–14%). The second, the “non-South European” pattern, involving Sweden, Poland, and Germany, portrays the highest frequencies of NGOs (69–53.5%), followed by churches and charities in Poland and Sweden (22% in both) but only 4.7% in Germany. The two countries (also non-South EU) that do not follow the above patterns of prevalent organizational types are Switzerland and the UK. The highest frequency of social economy (33.7%) AAOs is seen in Switzerland, followed by NGOs (30.1%), informal/protest groups and unions and associations (13.1% in both). In contrast, charities and churches hold the highest frequency in the UK (49.5%), followed by social economy (30.7%) and low frequencies on the remaining types of AAOs.
In terms of AAOs’ emergence (ratio of the AAOs’ starting year at the aggregate level), the results showed that generally, AAOs appear as long ago as the early 1900s, with a noticeable presence immediately after WWII and since the mid-60s. Increasing waves appear in the 70s, escalating progressively and steadily after the mid-80s and especially since the late 90s, with the highest peak during the recent crisis period. Thus, the 2008 economic crisis appears to have triggered the creation of new AAOs, as the founding ratio peaks from 2008–2013 (more than 5% every year), with subsequent decreases from 2014–15. Furthermore, the overall growth in the nine countries studied seems to react in quite sensitive ways to the developments of the period and the recent economic downturn affecting EU countries. The rather smooth, escalating, composite peak changes, however, when we disaggregate at the country level. At first glance, two clear patterns can be identified. One pattern is that of countries highly affected by the crisis, i.e. Spain and Greece, but also Italy and France at the threshold of the crisis and Poland, in which the starting-year ratio peaks during the crisis years. More specifically, the creation of almost half or more than half of the AAOs in Spain (50.4%), Greece (56.2%), France (49%), Italy (44.8%), and Poland (45.9%) occurred from 2008–2015. By contrast, the countries not as affected by the crisis witnessed the formation of fewer AAOs from 2008–15, i.e. Sweden (33.6%), Switzerland (24.6%), Germany (22.4%), and the UK (17.8%). Compared to the former, AAOs in the latter countries are relatively older and more institutionalized, as most were founded in the 80s and 90s, with a noticeable peak in Switzerland in the late 90s.
With regard to AAOs' activities the results indicate that, because our European societies are constantly changing, AAOs’ activities have been found to be varied. The data show 10 main types of alternative/solidarity activities at the aggregate level, documenting basic/urgent needs as the main activity the most prominent in frequency (52.7%), followed by culture- (46%) and economy- (42.6%) related activities. Basic/urgent needs-related activities include the provision of food, shelter, medical services, clothing, free legal advice, emergency support to groups in need (e.g. women, children, refugees), and anti-eviction initiatives. Even more revealing, however, is the cross-national comparison of the type of activities offered to address basic/urgent needs. More importantly, the cross-national analysis shed light on important similarities and differences among the nine countries concerning their specific actions within the main activity of basic/urgent needs. In terms of shelter and housing-related actions, the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, and Germany hold the highest frequencies (17–11.2%), whereas France, Poland, Spain, and Italy show the lowest (5.4–2.6%). Mental health services are highest in Poland (15.7%), the UK (13.6%), Greece (10.6%), and Sweden (8.3%) but lower in the other countries. Social support/help lines are most prominent in Sweden (62.3%) and the UK (44.4%); moderately so in Poland, Greece, and Switzerland (20.5 19.8 and 17.5%); and least frequent in the remaining four countries. Free legal advice and consulting service actions are most prevalent in Poland (30.3%); less so in Sweden (16.9%), the UK (12.2%), and Greece (10.2%); and lowest elsewhere. In addition, Sweden and Poland have the highest frequencies in educational activities (29.5 and 25.3%, respectively). It is noteworthy that Germany alone has the highest frequency in social grocery actions (42.8%), Spain leads in anti-eviction actions (18.3%), and Sweden leads in emergency support for women (6.7%); comparatively, all other countries feature very low frequencies in these respective actions. Furthermore, LIVEWHAT data reveal five specific actions in all of which Greece holds the highest frequency compared (and with considerable distance) to the other countries: i.e. clothing/items provision, health/social (free) medicine, social community kitchens, emergency refugee/migrant support, and actions against direct and indirect taxation (24.4%, 21.6%, 11.2%, 18.2%, and 5.2%, respectively). These reflect the intensity of the impact of the economic crisis (see also below, the ‘crisis factor’), the related dramatic decline in standards of living for a considerable part of the Greek population, and the impacts of the 2015 refugee crisis in Greece.
Concerning AAOs' aims, the analysis revealed that that different AAOs share features that distinguish them from the public economy and conventional for-profit economy. More specifically, the three top-frequency aims of the AAOs areas follow: the promotion of alternative economic practices (32.2%), the promotion and achievement of social change (31.0%), and the promotion of positive/individual change (29.4%). Additionally, the next two prominent aims are the reduction of poverty and exclusion (27.6%) and the promotion of health, education, and welfare (26.6%). Finally, of lower frequency but important in approximately one fifth of the AAOs (ranging from 22.8%–19.4%) are the aims of promoting collective identities, community empowerment, sustainable development, self-determination, self-empowerment, and democratic practices and combating discrimination. It is noteworthy that the promotion of dignity, albeit the lowest in frequency (6.6%), appears to be the goal of AAOs and not only as a value. In terms of prevalent solidarity approaches used in the delivery of aims and the generation of goods and services for AAOs’ participants and beneficiaries, the results show that the most prominent type is the “mutual help approach,” adopted by almost half of the AAOs (49.2%). Second in frequency are distribution-of-goods AAOs, the mission of which is the distribution of goods and services to those in need. This solidarity from above approach is mostly visible in charities and other church-related institutions. Third most frequent is an altruistic approach, in which AAOs offer help and support to others. The solidarity approach lowest in frequency is support/assistance between groups, chosen by almost one fifth of the AAOs.
In terms of sources of resources, the results revealed that although AAOs can draw resources from diverse sources, they largely depend on resources provided by their initiators and/or members. The data show that donations appear to be the most prevalent resource proxy, as reflected by the calls to donors on one third of AAO websites (33%). The importance of financial resource management is also similarly reflected in the next most prominent proxy, the existence of a treasurer/person responsible for finance or accounting, found in one fourth of AAOs (25.3%). It is also mirrored in the material on finances and financial transparency available on AAO websites (16.4%), such as financial reports, financial statements, and annual budgets. Human/staff resources follow in importance as AAO resources, as approximately one fifth of AAOs have paid staff (18.6%) and a similar portion (16%) have calls recruiting personnel through their websites.
Concerning AAOs' supporters and partners a closer examination of the types of AAOs partners indicate that AAOs are able to draw on a diverse array of partners depending on the nature and context of their operations. The analysis showed that informal and protest groups are more prevalent as AAO partners in Spain (35.7%), Switzerland (32.1%), Greece (29.6) and France (25.6%) but lowest in the UK (3.0%). Social-economy enterprise partners are most frequent in Spain (24.0%) and Switzerland (21.9%) and lowest in Sweden (1.2%). NGO partners are more prominent in Poland (28.1%), Switzerland (26.1%), and Greece (23.6%) but less so in Germany (8.6%) and the UK (7.4%). Charities and churches are the most frequent partners in British (25.4%) and Polish AAOs (20.5%). Union partners of the highest frequencies are found in Switzerland (35.4%), France (25.4%), and Spain (21.8%). Municipal/regional/central state agencies are more often partners of Polish (40.6%), Swiss (36.9%), and Greek AAOs (27.6%). University and cultural club partners are more prevalent as partners in Swiss (17.4%) and Greek AAOs (16.4%). Last but not least, companies constitute an engaging partner type that shows higher frequencies across Polish (36.3%), Swedish (23.2%), Swiss (21.9%), Greek (21%), and British AAOs (18.4%).
Moving to the issue of beneficiaries and participants, the results, depicting 15 different types of beneficiaries/participants at the aggregate level, showed that the most outstanding beneficiary group for almost half of the AAOs (40.8%), is the “general public and every interested person,” an unexpected result that reflects unmet needs for a wider beneficiary group during hard economic times. The next three most prominent groups, mentioned by approximately one fourth of all AAOs, are “children, youth and students” (26.9%), the “poor or marginalized people and communities,” including the homeless and he imprisoned (26.3%) and local communities (24.4%). This result is also noteworthy, reflecting again the unmet needs of young people, a more vulnerable segment of the population. Lower in frequency are citizen-consumers/small enterprises (18.9%), the disabled/health vulnerable (15.2%), families (14.2%), the uninsured/unemployed or precarious workers (13.7%), and immigrants/refugees (12.2%). New labor conditions and refugee crises are two issues that concern European AAOs; thus, approximately 15% have as beneficiaries the precarious, uninsured workers or unemployed people, and refugees and immigrants. The elderly/pensioners (8.6%), women (8.2%), and minorities/hate crime victims (5.1%) are AAO beneficiaries at a much lower frequency.
Finally, the analysis captured the 'crisis effect' vis'-a-vis the AAOs. The analysis of the qualitative interviews with AAO participants and initiators showed that the economic crisis has provided AAOs with an opportunity for experimentation and diversification of the scope of their activities. In Italy, social turbulence due to the crisis is providing opportunities to politicize its economic struggles and express them through radical initiatives. In countries less heavily affected by the economic crisis, there is still an increase in social demand for the supportive action of solidarity groups and an alternative economy due to unemployment and social anxiety. In Germany, the crisis is motivating society towards a value shift but also encourages solidarity towards those – individuals, groups, and whole nations–who are most seriously affected by it. The refugee crisis is usually mentioned by German and Swedish AAOs representatives as being related to the economic crisis and as relevant to the intensification of AAOs’ activity. In Sweden, an indirect effect of the economic crisis is that groups of beneficiaries have changed as a result of immigration, with immigrant populations increasingly becoming the main beneficiaries of AAOs. The reverse is observed in Italy and Greece, where the financial crisis urges interest and participation of the native population in supporting structures and programs used by immigrants only before the crisis. In addition, the crisis context negatively influences the operation of AAOs because their funds are reduced and participation is becoming unstable, whereas demand increases. In France, associations that are mainly political and that receive extensive state funding have suffered the most in the crisis. In Spain, the decline in funding together with increased complexity of the bureaucracy has resulted in drastic reductions in AAO personnel. Volunteering is also attenuated, and commitment on participation is reduced, which is mentioned both in Greek and Spanish interviews. In Poland, a country that has not been harmed by the recent economic crisis, AAOs view state and EU funding as becoming less accessible and their networks with other European countries as languishing. In the UK, on the other side, there is reported a desire to move beyond the austerity idea of plugging a sort of gap in the welfare state towards a far more positive and empowering notion of people gaining skills, social connections, and advice in a community setting.
In brief, LIVEWHAT's key results may be summarized as follows:
On policy and legal responses to crisis:
- Since the onset of the recent economic crisis and its immediate aftermath, a predominant trend in all nine countries is that the reforms enacted have aimed to flexibilize the workforce, often in a way that places the burden of reforms on the employee side (see e.g. Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, France and Italy). Also, reforms in many countries have directly targeted the situation of public sector employees.
- Although the majority of national reforms directly worsened the situation for public sector employees, there are negative long-term impacts for young workers in the beginning of their labor careers.
- More than in other European countries, in the countries particularly hit by the economic crisis, such as Spain, Italy and especially Greece, the demands for budget discipline and welfare retrenchment have further aggravated the effects of the crisis on living standards, with a deterioration of the main socio-economic indicators (e.g. disposable income and poverty rates).
- Certain labor rights have come under jeopardy. Compared to ten years ago, there is less protection against dismissals and there are tightened conditions for receiving unemployment benefits in almost all the countries examined by LIVEWHAT. Particularly significant changes have taken place in crisis-affected countries such as Greece and Spain.
- The rights to unionize and strike have not changed as significantly as other labor rights. Yet, findings suggest that there is increasing willingness among the governing authorities to limit and regulate citizens’ use of the freedom of assembly in many countries, most notably in France, Spain and Greece.
On collective responses to crisis:
- National discourses in almost all the nine countries examined have provided a political arena where the classic performance of contentious politics was delivered between powerful political insiders on the one hand and different types of outsider “publics” on the other.
- Public discourses in times of crisis have been a space for a struggle of access and positioning by old and new actors, that is, a process of claims-making innovation. This has generated new arenas of communication and mobilization that remain nationally confined with very low levels of European visibility.
- National public debates have largely been dominated by a discourse focused on macro-economic issues at the expense of social and labor market issues. As a result, the voices of technocrats and policy-makers arguing with economic groups have gained prominence in the public domain at the expense of labor and civil society organizations as well as ordinary citizens.
On individual responses to crisis:
- Citizens’ understandings and experiences of the crisis vary by the national context in which one is situated and whether the country experienced a deep or lighter economic crisis – pointing also to a deep north-south split in Europe. Countries where the crisis was lighter had to suffer fewer consequences, such as having to make drastic cutbacks in consumption, including staples such as food or medications and visits to doctors. On the other hand, the situation is more serious in those countries harder hit by the crisis.
- Citizens’ economic experiences and perceptions of the fairness of inequalities spurred by the crisis play a key role in shaping citizens’ support for welfare-state redistribution. If deprivation is deep, frustration, distrust and dissatisfaction might find expression in collective action and protest activity.
- The crisis affects national identity and nationalism in different ways for individuals. Those belonging to the lower classes become more nationalistic when exposed to information about their country losing economic status. Conversely, individuals belonging to middle and upper classes become less so. This sheds light on the micro-mechanisms behind the idea that ethno-nationalist and nativist responses to the economic crisis spread around at these times, especially among those who were more seriously hit by the economic crisis.
- The effects of the crisis – unemployment, exclusion, inequality, poverty – have obliged European citizens to rethink the way organized communities meet social needs. One product of this rethinking has been the emergence of Alternative Action Organizations (AAOs) – formal and informal groups with primarily social objectives – as part of a growing social and solidarity economy.
- In all nine countries studied by LIVEWHAT – but especially in countries hit hard by the crisis -AAOs were found to complement other channels of providing goods and services, thus serving as buffers against the crisis, providing for goods and services to address emerging urgent needs.
- Participation and membership in AAOs contributed to an empowerment process. At the individual level, participants and beneficiaries gained empowerment through their active involvement in the participatory decision-making process within and outside organizations when they bargained with external stakeholders. At the collective level, AAOs contributed to the empowerment process of communities by demonstrating that all individuals can become active economic and social actors.
In view of the above, LIVEWHAT developed a set of policy pointers which are encapsulated in the Handbook of Good Practices. The policy pointers aimed at European Institutions, the European Commission, National and Local Governments and Civil Society Actors invite key stakeholders to reflect more broadly on how to achieve their determination not only to restore inclusive growth but to lay the foundation for a better Europe, and not less Europe.
LIVEWHAT aimed for the following four impacts:
1. To advance knowledge regarding the ways in which citizens respond to economic crises and their social and political consequences.
This impact was achieved by yielding significant foreground both at individual and collective levels. LIVEWHAT findings have provided evidence-based knowledge about citizens’ reactions and policy responses in times of economic crises. The project examined the ways in which European citizens have reacted to the recent crisis that, at different degrees of intensity in different countries, has struck Europe since 2008, but also how they deal with economic crises and their consequences more generally. While the focus of the research was on citizens’ coping strategies and responses (individual and collective), LIVEWHAT also examined policy responses so as to have a baseline for assessing citizens’ resilience.
In terms of individual responses, LIVEWHAT contributed to advancing understanding about how the crisis has been experienced and, lived by, citizens in Europe. LIVEWHAT’s experimental findings (Work package 5 on Causal Effects of Crises on Citizens’ Attitudes and Behaviors) have brought to light important insights regarding citizens’ responses as these are expressed in terms of support for redistribution and support for nationalism and the European Union (EU). Findings have provided clear evidence that individuals’ economic experiences and perceptions of the fairness of inequalities that the crisis spurs play a key role in shaping citizens’ support of welfare-state redistribution. If deprivation is deep, frustration, distrust and dissatisfaction might find expression in collective action and protest activity. The evidence generated shows that collective action or more generally political participation in its different modes has been found to be significantly affected by the economic crisis in different directions. Moreover, deprivation enhances participation in collective action only when it is group-based, but reduces it when it is strictly personal. This effect of collective deprivation is channelled through moral outrage, and it is independent from the cost of collective action.
As the crisis continues and disillusionment sets in, the effects of rising nationalism, putting increasing pressures on member-state politics, began to unfold. The experimental findings show that the crisis affects national identity and nationalism in different ways for high-status and low-status individuals. Those belonging to the lower classes become more nationalistic when exposed to information about their country’s losing its economic status as a country. Conversely, individuals belonging to the upper- middle classes become less so. This helps with understanding the micro-mechanisms behind the idea that ethno-nationalist responses to the economic crisis spread around at these times, especially among those who are more seriously hit by the economic crisis. What these implications suggest is that the combination of economic crisis, deprivation, defence of national interest at the popular level and further on incomplete integration at the European level constitutes a particularly damaging cocktail for EU democratic legitimacy.
Historically, the project of European integration was the vehicle for building bridges across borders and links between individuals in different countries. The EU has become an increasingly important factor in citizens’ daily lives. The domain for European policy making has grown. Yet, the public has come to perceive the EU as more and more remote (read technocratic) and national governments as less and less responsive to their concerns—often as a result of EU mandates. This has translated into increasingly volatile national politics, with the electoral cycling of incumbent governments and the growth of populism, as extremist parties with anti-euro and anti-EU messages get attention, votes and even seats in the European and national parliaments. Such toxic politics have been fueled by the EU’s North-South divide as work package 4 data on individual responses corroborate, and the EU’s poor economic performance. All of these developments have left European citizens with a vague feeling that the EU is no longer the guarantee for prosperity it once seemed to be. In this respect, LIVEWHAT has helped to raise awareness of the current predicament. Overcoming the fragmentation of Europe’s polity would require institutions that allow European-wide policy deliberation. Yet, this is apparently not possible as long as no European public sphere—as work package 3 data on national discourses show—is in place that facilitates the same intensity of communication flows across borders as within nation states. Also, it is not possible as long as the crisis continues, disillusionment sets in and citizens expectations and needs are not placed high on policy agendas.
In this respect, LIVEWHAT has brought to the fore the need for policy-makers both at national and EU levels to work in ways that encourage inclusiveness of the victims of crisis and building bridges between national polities, pointing to the significant socio-economic impact this project may have. LIVEWHAT foreground indicates that the challenge is to find new ways of addressing a general redistributional problem in the EU that will persist in the long term if adequate social and economic responses are not provided, and of governing the Eurozone in a way that works effectively and responds to the will of the citizens. The emergence of EU redistributive policies calls for a bigger effort to integrate civil society in the decision-making process, which can be instrumental in carrying forward citizens needs and responses. With democratic legitimacy in peril, more needs to be done to ensure that citizens have more to say over EU policies and politics.
At a collective level, LIVEWHAT has been groundbreaking in terms of capturing the current momentum of the growth of alternative action organizations and social and solidarity economy growth in Europe as a response to the adverse effects of the crisis. LIVEWHAT evidence on the growing presence of the social and solidarity economy in countries most severely affected by the crisis (Work package 6 data on Alternative Forms of Resilience) indicates the real possibility of social changes that are conducive to more human-oriented growth models. In the face of public cuts and austerity measures, the state has proved rather weak to providing strong social safety nets, especially for those groups that have been particularly affected by the crisis. These and other concerns related to market and state failures have opened up the space for rethinking resilience and social assistance. Social economy and solidarity actions are fundamentally about citizens bouncing back from hard times and reasserting social control over the economy by rethinking economic practices in terms of democratic self-management and active citizenship. Seen in this way, LIVEWHAT has been instrumental in helping researchers, policy makers and civil society actors recognize that analyzing social and solidarity economy and its alternative potential, examining its regional manifestations and variations, and identifying public policies and legal arrangements that can enable social and solidarity economy may provide a way forward for inclusive growth. Ultimately, LIVEWHAT evidence has generated an understanding about the need to reflect on critical ways to respond to crises in Europe. The crisis has prompted major policy rethinking across Europe, the LIVEWHAT data suggest. This is welcome, necessary, and overdue. It is our collective responsibility to take a hard look at the failings of the recent past to build a resilient future for European citizens.
Concurrently, in terms of policy responses, LIVEWHAT data (Work package 2 data on Policy Responses to Crises) contributed to understanding how policy responses vary by the national context in which they are situated–specifically whether the country experienced a heavy or lighter economic crisis. LIVEWHAT data show that significant changes have been made in the four examined fields—labor, health, tax, and social policies—but variations across countries as well as in policies themselves are very large. Still, one could find two common trends in the crisis-related changes. First, reforms in many countries have directly targeted the situation of public sector employees. Second, irrespective of their relation to the crisis as such, a predominant trend in all nine countries is that the reforms enacted have aimed to flexibilize the workforce, often in such a way that the burden of reforms has been placed on the employee side rather than on the side of businesses or indeed the state. This has been the case in Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, France and Italy. Whereas some countries, notably Germany, Sweden and to a limited extent Poland and Italy, digressed slightly from this path in their immediate responses to the crisis by reintroducing some services for the unemployed, the overarching and pervasive development indicates a movement away from a rights-based understanding of labor market relations, to one where competitiveness and growth are achieved by narrowing the distribution of such rights. Indirect effects of the structural changes in the labor market, i.e. precarization, combined with less unemployment insurance and social benefits, might have negative long-term effects on large sectors of society. Even slight changes in the levels and conditions of eligibility for sickness and unemployment benefits will have potentially more palpable effects for a workforce that is increasingly less likely to be granted access to such systems. Hence, although the majority of the national reforms directly worsened the situation of public sector employees, negative long-term impacts exist for those in the beginning of their labor careers as well. The reality is that many of these workers, due to limited work intensity, will not acquire sufficient entitlement to social security benefits. These findings have contributed to understanding the need for calling for careful consideration of how to improve social protection for these workers and in effect, generating important foregrounds with respect to the socio-economic impact of the project.
Also, LIVEWHAT data show more than in other European countries, in the countries particularly hit by the economic crisis, such as Spain, Italy and especially Greece, the demands for budget discipline have further aggravated the effects of the crisis on living standards, with a deterioration of the main socio-economic indicators (e.g. disposable income and poverty levels). Hence, LIVEWHAT has contributed to advancing knowledge about how the crisis effects have expanded the structural gaps in those countries’ national systems of social protections. This brings to light the need for EU countries to discuss possible alternative policies and to implement the right mix of policy reforms without losing the main elements and features of the European Social Model, which is still considered a point of reference in other parts of the world, thus helping Europe to preserve its soul and its identity.
In fact, the policy responses studied by LIVEWHAT indicate that the extent of these adjustments and reforms has induced certain setbacks to the European Social Model. We might thus ask whether the policy changes brought about over recent years actually contradict the place that the European Social Model should have in European construction. The paradox is that the European Social Model served its function in the early period of the crisis (2007–2009), when most European countries increased social expenditures to cushion the social shock of the crisis and when institutional schemes–such as active labor market policies, training, and social dialogue–were used actively to negotiate alternatives to massive layoffs, a solution that worked well, for instance, in continental European countries. The debt crisis, however, led in a different direction and generated an “austerity turn” followed by a radical transformation of social policies as a way to curb the deficits, although it is recognized that social policy was not among the causes of the crisis. The 2013 Communication of the European Commission on “Strengthening the Social Dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union” is an important initiative in terms of forging the European Social Model. The Communication stresses that “the EU in defining and implementing its policies and activities, is obliged, under the Treaties, to take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion and a high level of education, training and protection of human health” (which corresponds to Article 9 of the Treaties). This Communication may be seen as an attempt to shift the social-policy agenda away from mainly austerity exercises towards forward-looking elements. However, it is difficult not to see the discrepancy between rhetoric and practice. As an example, the strengthening of European social dialogue proposed at the EU level contrasts with the national policy responses to limit collective bargaining, especially in the countries advised by the Troika. As LIVEWHAT data indicate, under the pressure of the economic crisis, we witnessed most European countries changing–often hastily–several elements of what the Communication puts forward and what lies at the heart of the European Social Model: social protection, pensions, public services, workers’ rights, job quality, and social dialogue. In this context, LIVEWHAT has helped to see that, even though social policy has not been eroded everywhere in Europe, there are reasons to question the survival of the European Social Model if its dismantling continues, especially in southern European countries. Having said that, LIVEHWAT has significantly contributed to bringing forward a critical lens for capturing the current stage of European integration. What the LIVEWHAT foreground suggests is that if the aim of post-crisis European integration is to rekindle the bond between institutions and its citizens, starting by recognizing the need for a European-wide framework to strengthen social safety nets to fight poverty and promote more and better jobs to combat precariousness is not simply a clever tactic. In the long run, it may contribute to forging Europe’s democratic future.
2. To contribute to placing citizens’ responses to economic crises and their negative consequences on the political agenda by raising awareness about the situation of groups particularly at risk in situations of economic crisis.
This impact was sought by LIVEWHAT by studying national public discourses, which actors dominated policy debates, what issues were brought to the fore and what were neglected. The analysis of collective responses in the public domain suggests that during the period 2005–2014 (Work package 3 on Collective Responses to Crises in the Public Domain), national public debates in almost all of the nine countries examined have largely been dominated by political entrepreneurs, such as the economic organizations, at the expense of labor movements and other civil-society organizations. Such an erosion of the contribution of labor and civil-society actors and of ordinary citizens to public debates seems problematic from the normative point of view of democratic inclusion and from the point of view of the democratic quality of public debates. Therefore, from a societal perspective, LIVEWHAT findings have contributing to raising awareness about the need policy and media actors to give more space to these unheard public entities and to vulnerable groups highly affected by the crisis to voice their claims and positions on various aspects of the economic crisis, and thereby seeking to forge more inclusive political agendas. By doing so, they could turn public discourse from a de facto exclusive practice only for insiders into a more democratic and less top-down process which can distort the possibility of a more comprehensive and concerted problem-solving approach.
At the same time, LIVEWHAT evidence has helped to advance knowledge on certain 'deficits' related to the role of the EU as an agenda-setting actor in national debates. More particularly, LIVEWHAT evidence shows that the recent crisis has had no significant effect in terms of advancing the presence of the EU and European issues in national agendas and debates. Quite importantly, the results also confirm the uncontested primacy of national communicative flows in every country, leaving limited visibility for the EU or European protagonists and subjects. Hence, a Europeanized political communication in which national actors make claims within a European frame of reference transcending geographical boundaries has proved rather weak from 2008–2014 when the economic crisis reached its peak. Apart from the limited presence of the EU and European actors, it also seems that issues of representation of a clear-cut European public in the politics of dealing with the crisis have largely been neglected. This is part and parcel of the broader EU democratic deficit that has become more acute during the crisis years. The latter is related to a lack of responsiveness of the EU and accountability in the wider context of how the EU has responded to the economic crisis. At the end of the day, LIVEWHAT data have shed light on the need for creating more inclusive discourses and political agendas which can only be the outcome of a democratic interplay between the integration of governments and actors across boundaries and the integration of peoples and public spheres. Establishing a more visible dialogue with citizens on the impacts of the economic crisis may have a tangible effect by raising awareness about the situation of vulnerable groups particularly at risk in times of crisis economic crisis and addressing their needs through EU-wide targeted initiatives. This could be accomplished by developing better communication on how the EU has addressed and is still addressing the economic crisis, by organizing public deliberation events, and by forging strong transnational partnerships for EU communication and exchanges between European citizens, policy actors, and stakeholders – as LIVEWHAT policy recommendations indicate.
3. To improve the problem-solving capacity of policy-makers and practitioners by providing policy recommendations and a catalogue of good practices.
This impact was achieved by LIVEWHAT in two ways: a) by identifying current legal and policy gaps in terms of addressing the adverse socio-economic effects of the recent crisis, and b) by revealing new avenues for social and policy action. In terms of legal and policy gaps, LIVEWHAT findings on legal responses (Work package 2) show for instance that, since the crisis and its immediate aftermath, certain labor rights have come under jeopardy. Compared to ten years ago, there is less protection against dismissals, and there are tightened conditions for receiving unemployment benefits in almost all of the countries that LIVEWHAT examined. Particularly significant changes have taken place in crisis-affected countries, such as Greece and Spain. The rights to unionize and strike have not changed as significantly as other labor rights have. This could be the result of opposition from organized labor or the fact that some more fundamental rights are more difficult to change due to the legal traditions of the examined countries. This is also demonstrated by the incremental changes in the regulations of public assemblies (Spain, Greece, the United Kingdom), which limit citizens’ freedom of assembly, especially using some forms of action or restricting the areas accessible to protestors. So far, many of the most restrictive proposals have been defined as unconditional (France, Spain, Greece). From the perspective of the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights, these trends call for further attention by civil society groups, scholars and politicians.
With respect to new avenues for social and policy action, LIVEWHAT data has given rise to a set of concrete recommendations that are encapsulated in the project's five policy briefs and in the Handbook of Good Practices (see below) generating crucial foreground as to how the effects of the recent economic crisis—unemployment, exclusion, inequality and poverty—have urged European citizens to rethink the way in which organized communities meet social needs. For instance, data from work package 6 on alternative forms of resilience show that the needs of large groups in society in crisis-affected as well as in countries less affected by the crisis are neither met effectively by conventional markets nor by the state. One product of this rethinking has been the emergence of alternative action organizations—formal and informal groups with primarily social objectives—as part of a growing social and solidarity economy. In all nine countries that LIVEWHAT studied, alternative action organizations were found to complement other channels of providing goods and services. This includes the reintegration of vulnerable groups into working lives and the extension of social welfare and protection by providing goods and services to address emerging urgent needs.
What the findings show is that alternative action organizations in all nine countries studied share common features that distinguish them from the public economy and from the conventional for-profit economy. Driven primarily by social-benefit motives as opposed to capital accumulation, these organizations are largely “people-centered.” They all aim to pursue combined social and economic objectives, and they share specific operating principles based on participation, solidarity, mutual help, voluntary involvement and collective ownership. Yet, if alternative action organizations are not simply to be a response to crisis but rather an effective means to expand and diversify according to each society’s needs and dynamic, then policy-makers need to put in place the ideas, strategies and ways to learn and adapt to complex and changing circumstances, and not least to external pressures and shocks. This also involves the ability to produce new goods, innovative services and processes that meet social needs or create new social relationships and collaborations. Seen in this way, the recent growth of alternative action organizations presents the opportunity to: 1) rethink the way of life in a society that suffers from exclusion, inequality and poverty and 2) plan more comprehensive and democratic economic and social policies that comprise production inclusion, social equality, poverty eradication and the reduction of wealth concentration. All in all, LIVEWHAT research has contributed to enhancing the problem-solving capacity of policy-makers and practitioners by attesting to the importance of the alternative action organizations in building inclusive growth models, as they represent another business format based on value like long-term benefit, and the primacy of people over capital. Moreover, LIVEWHAT findings have aimed to feed into public policy making capacity by strongly underscoring noteworthy, good practices from national AAO responses to the crisis about the conditions and contexts that enable alternative action organizations to realize their potential, address contemporary social challenges and act as effective actors in policy-making and agents of social change. A key conclusion from these good practices, is that the promotion of alternative action organizations in decision-making structures and of social and solidarity economy considerations within policy frameworks is a significant tool for achieving social inclusion and cohesion, from local to European levels. It requires that public policies created to support the development of alternative action organizations at the European, national and local levels are dynamic—constantly evolving in response to changing social conditions—as well as demand the strong and active participation of actors of alternative action organizations in their planning, execution and monitoring. In crafting synergies and collaborations, the issue is how to ensure that the “voice” of actors of alternative action organizations or his or her seat at the table, actually translates into his or her becoming a player who can effectively influence decision-making processes and social change through collective action (“co-production”); this is a crucial element for enriching public agendas and policy initiatives.
4. To help develop a more comprehensive and concerted problem-solving approach within member states and the EU by promoting knowledge transfer and policy learning.
This impact was sought by examining individual perceptions, evaluations and responses to the recent crisis. LIVEWHAT data (Work package 4 data on Individual Responses to Crises) indicate that countries tend to be differentiated in their public perceptions of the crisis and responses to it on the basis of whether the crisis was deeper or lighter. Countries in which the crisis was lighter, as might be expected, are more positive about economic conditions and are less worried about the crisis. This is not surprising because they also had to suffer fewer consequences, such as having to make drastic cutbacks in the consumption of staples, such as food or medications and visits to the doctor. On the other hand, the situation is more serious in those countries harder hit by the crisis. As such, the findings have shown that people’s understanding of and experiences with the crisis vary by the national contexts in which they are situated and whether their countries experienced deeper or lighter economic crises—pointing also to a deep North-South split in Europe.
In recent years, notions of a North-South divide within the EU—in particular, within the Eurozone—have increasingly gained attention in the European discourse. The North-South divide, in our research, is seen in four key areas. The first is when citizens were asked to report their satisfaction with governmental policies in four fields: poverty, unemployment, precarious employment and immigration. The results show that satisfaction levels in all four policy fields are particularly low in Southern European countries—most notably in Greece—as opposed to satisfaction levels reported in the Continental, Scandinavian and Anglo Saxon countries of our sample. Second, when citizens were asked to compare their living standards to those of their parents, most citizens in Continental, Scandinavian and Anglo Saxon countries indicated that they believed their living standards were better vis-à-vis a third of respondents in the Mediterranean and Southern countries, including France, Greece and Italy, and about half in Spain. Third, citizens were asked to rate living conditions in their own country and then those in the other countries in the project. The results show once again that a small to moderate proportion of citizens in Mediterranean and Southern countries rate living conditions in their own countries as good vis-à-vis an overwhelming majority in Continental, Scandinavian, and in Anglo Saxon countries. Fourth, the proportion of individuals in various countries has to make reductions in consumption as a result of the crisis, and this is taken into consideration. The results show again that reductions were more widespread in Southern European countries as opposed to the Continental, Scandinavian and Anglo Saxon countries of our sample, which the crisis did not affect much.
Clearly, although global in character, the crisis has revealed more about the North-South divide in Europe that we could ever see. Certainly, traces of a North-South divide in the Eurozone with regard to economic fundamentals, such as (youth) unemployment, purchasing power, income per capita or GDP per capita, existed long before the 2008 economic crisis unfolded. However, the dividing lines always seemed bridgeable for the South as the European project promised—from the mid-1990s on—a convergence and the prospect of growth and prosperity. The customs union, the Single Market and the Economic and Monetary Union are all major stages in this process. The LIVEWHAT findings have helped us see that the recent crisis seems to have reversed this positive development and has since cast serious doubt on the European integration model of convergence. Even if there should finally be light at the end of the tunnel of the Euro crisis, visible scars will remain, as this division not only reflects pure economic performance but also reflects the resurgence of nationalist stereotyping at the expense of European solidarity. A divided Europe feeds parochialism, stereotyping and, ultimately, extremism. In this respect, LIVEWHAT has contributed to acknowledging the need for a more comprehensive and concerted problem-solving approach within member states and the EU which can be further promoted through strong mechanisms for knowledge transfer and policy learning. Pro-Europe policy-makers, LIVEWHAT results show, have to stop taking the North-South divide at face value. Looking into its causes and impact will expose the poverty of Eurosceptic arguments; the technocratic agenda that has driven European policy-making will also receive a reality check.
To forge its impact, LIVEWHAT pursued the following activities for dissemination and exploitation of results.
In terms of main policy dissemination, LIVEWHAT: (a) produced five policy briefs (one on policy responses to crises (Work package 2), one on collective responses to crises in the public domain (Work package 3), one on individual responses to crises and causal relationships between crises and their consequences on citizens (Work package 4 and Work package 5), one and alternative forms of resilience in times of crisis (Work package 6), and a final one providing a comprehensive elaboration of all the policy recommendations); (b) developed a handbook of good practices (which synthesized the main findings of the research work packages and included an inventory of good and socially innovative practices), and; (c) organized a final conference in Brussels with the participation of members of the consortium, national policy-makers, academics, civil society actors, NGOs, experts, and media representatives.
In terms of main scientific dissemination, LIVEWHAT Consortium members wrote articles for scholarly journals or collective volumes. Five articles were written, each dealing with a specific aspect addressed in the project: policy responses to crises (Work package 2), collective responses to crises in the public domain (Work package 3), individual responses to crises (Work package 4), causal relationships between crises and their consequences on citizens (Work package 5), and alternative forms of resilience in times of crisis (Work package 6). Moreover, LIVEWHAT Consortium members participated in numerous national, European and American scientific events, such as scholarly conferences and workshops, where they presented papers drawing on the project research findings.
Also, LIVEWHAT organized the 2015 Summer School on Citizens’ Resilience in Times of Crises at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence. The Summer School provided an interactive learning environment where 21 young scholars from around the world attended courses on a number of methods employed in the study of the interlinkages between crises, policy responses, and citizens’ resilience, and on issues of mobilization and alternative forms of action. Participants presented their on-going research projects and received feedback from leading scholars in the field. Further on, LIVEWHAT organized the 2015 International Scientific Conference at the University of Geneva. The aim of the conference was two-fold: to disseminate the project’s findings and to foster exchanges between the LIVEWHAT Consortium and prominent scholars working in the field. The conference was structured around five main themes, reflecting key research dimensions of the LIVEWHAT project, i.e. Theme 1: The interplay of different forms of participation in times of crisis, Theme 2: Austerity policies and the governance structure of the economic crisis, Theme 3: Social welfare, family, and non-political resistance to the economic crisis, Theme 4: Economic crisis and the rise of populisms, Theme 5: Social welfare, family, and non-political resistance to the economic crisis. Finally, LIVEWHAT produced a synthesis of the project's main findings which provides an in-depth presentation of the key results and findings with the aim of helping scholars, practitioners, policy-makers, and civil society actors in Europe to identify a more comprehensive and concerted problem-solving approach to tackling the negative effects of the recent crisis.
In terms of main public dissemination, LIVEWHAT: (a) set up a project website (http://www.livewhat.unige.ch) which provides information on the project, its outputs and news; (b) produced six newsletters (one every six months) informing the audience on LIVEWHAT activity; (c) set up a wikisite on hubs and sub-hubs alternative solidarity practices and structures which is available on the project website; (d) produced a documentary film entitled 'Citizens and the Crisis' which sheds light on various aspects of crises and how citizens react to them. The documentary film makes use of contacts and materials gathered in work package 6 (Alternative forms of resilience in times of crisis), while also bringing together evidence from work package 2 (Policy Responses to Crises), work package 3 (Collective Responses to Crises in the Public Domain), work package 4 (Individual Responses to Crises), and work package 5 (Causal effects of crises on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors).
List of Websites:
Contact details: Professor Marco Giugni, Director of the Institute of Citizenship Studies (InCite), University of Geneva, Boulevard du Pont d’Arve, 40, 1204 Genève, Tel.: +41 22 379 99 14, Email: email@example.com