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Living with Hard Times: How European Citizens Deal with Economic Crises and Their Social and Political Consequences

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Resilience and responses to economic crises

Researchers have provided evidence-based knowledge about citizens’ resilience in times of economic crisis in Europe.

Society

How do people develop resilience in times of difficulty, instead of choosing fatalism? This is a question important to scientists, policymakers and society in general. LIVEWHAT (Living with hard times: How European citizens deal with economic crises and their social and political consequences) was an EU funded project that examined different degrees of intensity in countries across Europe that were affected by the economic crisis starting from 2008. LIVEWHAT provided systematic evidence of how European citizens responded to the crisis both individually and collectively. The researchers focused primarily on citizens’ responses but also dealt with policy responses. Their aim was to suggest a number of good practices for dealing with the economic crises at both the social and the political level. After having identified and measured crises in a first stage, they conducted cross-country research of nine European countries to pinpoint and record key changes related to legislation and policies in the areas of social rights, labour policies, healthcare service and education. The researchers then investigated the impact of the crisis on citizens. Those who are hit hardest by economic recessions are the most likely to withdraw from being politically involved. Citizens who voice their concerns choose different strategies and channels to be heard as an active reaction. Additionally, citizens can develop new practices and attitudes towards the economic system and their place in it. Some examples include food banks, soup kitchens and free legal advice. Project results include numerous policy briefs, articles for scholarly journals and the project website. Additionally, a Summer School on Citizens’ Resilience in Times of Crises took place at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence. Potential impact of the results includes an advance in knowledge of how citizens respond to crises and the political consequences involved. This can contribute to placing citizens’ responses on the political agenda through an increased awareness. In turn, it can also improve the problem-solving capacity of policymakers and practitioners.

Keywords

Resilience, economic crises, LIVEWHAT, policy responses

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