Second, decoupling of social cohesion from social justice: In T.H. Marshall's trajectory, and for much of the history of the European welfare state, economic security provided by the state equalized opportunities (to a large extent) for participation in common social and political projects, which in turn facilitated solidarity and social cohesion. In the new social project, the connection between social justice and social cohesion has weakened. While it is prized as a goal, social cohesion falls in the main onto an increasingly moralized and incentivized individual citizen – thus the emphasis in policy on active and able citizenry.
It helps to be historically attuned. Esping-Andersen and Myles (2008) remind us that, despite its distributive functions, the European welfare state was not originally conceived as a vehicle for justice. If anything, in the hands of conservative reformers like Bismarck, the welfare state ‘sought primarily to reproduce, rather than to alter, prevailing social hierarchies’ (Esping-Andersen and Myles 2008: 1). Only with a push from the socialists in the course of the twentieth century did the welfare state develop a more egalitarian outlook for its citizens as expressed in social justice ideals. In the postwar period, linked with human rights, social justice acquired a more universalistic meaning in European legal regimes and normative foundations (Benhabib 2004, Soysal 1994). It is these universalistic notions that Europe often prides herself in contrast with the USA and other contenders. Recent developments, however, hint that an accord between European projections of self and policy reforms is not as settled as the protagonists of social Europe would like to believe.
Work as a means of achieving social justice?
In the new social project, work has a crucial place as a means to fight social exclusion. This view was expressed vigorously by the Swedish Minister of Finance Anders Borg, the ‘architect’ of the renewed ‘Swedish model’:
The Government's employment policy is ultimately based on the understanding that the opportunity to work has a value in a broader sense. By offering more people the opportunity to move from exclusion to employment, there will also be more people who can provide a livelihood for themselves and their families. Having a job affects one's sense of well-being. In the workplace, one is part of a larger social community and is capable of achievement, development and a sense of participation. Without a job, the risk of financial, social and health problems increases. For the individual and for welfare in general, the value of work is fundamental. A policy for increased employment and less exclusion is thus a moral imperative and not just a financial necessity.7
It is hard to object such reasoning. There is a great deal of empirical evidence which confirms that poverty is concentrated among the jobless households and that ‘social inheritance’ is still the main determinant of life chances (Esping-Andersen 2002b).8
All the same, such policy objectives are lacking, given the structural characteristics of today's economy. Thus, the well-documented dilemma: Being unemployed is detrimental in the long run, locking individuals into an outsider position. However, most entry-level jobs are not the type to affect social mobility, and many people are permanently trapped in inferior opportunities.
Polarization of labour markets between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ is regarded as a syndrome of the post-industrial, globalized economies. Comparative research shows that the extent of such polarization differs across countries; the national institutional context of labour markets and employment plays a filtering role (Gallie 2009). National differences notwithstanding, the integrated global economic order encourages dual employment markets, supported by highly structured migrant labour flows. The move from an economy dominated by industrial production to an economy dominated by an internationalized service industry underscores a new socio-economic hierarchy (Sassen 1998). The internationalized economy includes not only the lucrative finance and IT sectors, advanced biotech companies, and specialized services (and an uplifting of the urban economy thanks to these businesses), it also supports a whole spectrum of routine, labour-intensive service industries such as health, security, retail, hospitality, catering, care, and construction. High-income and skilled work expands in technical, managerial, and financial markets, creating the need for a range of lower-paid and lower-skilled personal and household services. These are often unprotected, poor-quality jobs, frequently performed by the weaker participants in the labour markets – young people, women, older low-skilled workers, and immigrants who constitute sizeable groups in the population. A general up-skilling of the workforce, bolstered by internationalization and specialization, does not guarantee that the low paying and poor-quality jobs will disappear.
The mobility of the ‘global professional class’ (e.g., employees of international finance and IT companies, scientific research agencies, and artists) is seen as imperative for a competitive and productive economy. The current European- and national-level immigration policy language and instruments embrace this kind of mobility. The European Union has introduced a blue card scheme (for non-EU applicants), which allows cardholders and their families to live and work within the EU, with automatic residency after five years (similar to the US green card) (Council of the European Union 2009). Several member states, (the UK, Germany, France, and Denmark) already have their own special immigration legislation for high-skilled labour. Point systems that condition entry based on qualification, skills, previous salary, and experience are becoming a common instrument further valorizing such capital (Shachar 2006). The un- and low-skilled migrant labourers, on the other hand, who service and are thus integral to the running of the leading growth sectors, are ‘invisible’ in this policy move (Sassen 2000). Such workers are rarely considered part of the competitive economy and are not valued as such.
Global labour markets at the top and bottom of the economic system have been studied instructively (Parrenas 2001; Sciortino and Bommes 2011; Smith and Favell 2006). Given the labour market positions they fulfill, it should not seem paradoxical that migrant labour flows coexist with low labour-force participation rates, labour shortages, and unemployment in European cities. The care sector is an illuminating example here. The demographic and social changes in Europe (an ageing population, and increased female labour-market participation and the associated demand for child and elderly care) have meant an unprecedented expansion of domestic help and care services. While the organization and provision of such services still differ across welfare regimes, care work is rapidly becoming migrant work in Europe as in other parts of the world (Geissler and Pfau-Effinger 2005). The growing literature has aptly shifted the focus from ‘migrants as welfare users’ to ‘migrants as welfare providers’ (Lister et al. 2007; Williams 2010). Female migrant workers are overrepresented in the lower echelons of the care sector in all types of European states. Since 2000, forms of cash provision or tax credit toward home care and domestic help have been introduced in several European countries (Austria, France, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK all have such arrangements), encouraging the development of a low-cost, formal and informal migrant labour market. In Sweden, where state provision dominates, health and community care services account for high shares of foreign employment (recruited either by state agencies or large private firms), with a migrant concentration from Baltic countries. In the UK, formal public provision for care is increasingly outsourced to for-profit companies that hire large numbers of migrant workers, both high- and low-skill levels. In 2008, 21 per cent of all home carers and care assistants working in England were foreign born (Van Hooren 2011: 94). In Spain, migrant workers represent between one-half and two-thirds of those in regular employment in the sector, and the great majority of these jobs are held by women from Latin America, North Africa, and Eastern Europe (Moreno Fuentes and Bruquetas Callejo 2011: 124). In Italy, care of the elderly and domestic work are in the main undertaken by migrant workers without formal contracts. Through cash payments to care recipients (pensions, care allowances), the state indirectly supports an informal market for female migrant labour, while ‘sustaining the continuity of in family care as an ideal and practice’ (Lyon and Glucksmann 2008: 106). Several researchers point to the ‘gender equality paradox’ in Europe between the white majority who increasingly participate in politics and society and ethnic migrant minorities who are marginalized in the labour market (Siim and Skjeie 2008).
While social services in general, and care in particular, are among the employment sectors that prosper most in Europe, they expand ‘under conditions of sharp social, earnings, and often racial/ethnic segmentation’ (Sassen 2000: 81). Gendered low social status, low wages, precarious employment conditions, and lack of career opportunities characterize this sector. Where public provisions are transferred to market-based solutions, the sector has seen worsening conditions. Such jobs, although located in an expanding sector, clearly do not have a transformative (participatory and integrative) functionfor the individual and society, as envisioned by the new European social project.
Indeed, The EU's own progress review with regard to the Lisbon Strategy reveals disappointing results. The Social Protection Committee reports that from 2000 to 2007, unemployment rates in the EU were reduced from 8.6 per cent to 7.1 per cent and employment rates increased from 62.2 per cent to 65.9 per cent. However the report also confirms that the precarious forms of jobs (temporary, part-time) mitigate the positive impact of including more people in the labour market. Even after controlling for differences in education and experience, ‘atypical’ workers are generally paid less per hour, and these jobs are not stepping stones toward better jobs (European Commission 2009: 35–53).
The pressing question for the European social project is not simply whether ‘people are [un]employed’, but also whether ‘people are badly employed’– whether they lack opportunities with regard to improvement of skills, pay, and equal treatment (Nectoux and van der Maesen 2003: 3). It is estimated that a third of jobs in the EU are ‘poor quality’, particularly in terms of job characteristics associated with personal development and security (skills training, task discretion, employee participation, work intensity, work–family balance, and job stability) (Gallie 2002). Part-timers in non- or low-skilled jobs suffer a ‘cumulative disadvantage’ with respect to job quality. Their marginalization is exacerbated given that much of the investment in skills-training takes place in better paid, secure jobs. There are scarce opportunities for personal or skill development at the lower end of the employment spectrum.
Women, young, and migrant workers disproportionately suffer from these trends, facing multiple barriers (care responsibilities, low skills and qualifications, ethnic and racial discrimination) that keep them outside or at the margins of the labour market.9 Their continuing exclusion reveals the limitations of the European social project and lands it on shaky grounds.
Integration, social cohesion, and social justice
Since the 1990s, social cohesion ideas have become central to the European social policy agendas at both national and transnational levels. The OECD, World Bank, the Council of Europe, and the European Commission all engage the concept in addressing disparities between countries and social groups regarding living conditions and quality of life, and report periodically on it as a measure of the success of policy outcomes. It is one of the primary social objectives of the EU Lisbon Strategy and the subsequent programmes of action, and is referenced conspicuously in national policy instruments. The term ‘social cohesion’ has diverse understandings in social science theory, but in policy circles it broadly refers to ‘a sense of commitment, and desire [and] capacity to live together in some harmony’ (Jenson 1998: 5). Inclusion, belonging, and participation are matters commonly addressed under the rubric of social cohesion. Particularly as regards immigration and immigrants, the term resonates urgency.
Over the course of the 2000s, a zealous programme of immigrant integration gained momentum across Europe. Citing concerns about declining social cohesion and mounting societal tensions, most European governments have moved to introduce integration policies specifically targeting immigrants (prospective, but also those who have been in the country for long periods). Although organized and implemented differently, the stated goal of the national integration policies converges around the idea of immigrants acquiring the necessary skills to participate in the economic, cultural, social, and civic life of the receiving country. Obligatory language and integration courses are the most common vehicles. In some cases (Germany and Denmark), access to social benefits is linked to participation in these classes and non-compliance can accrue sanctions. Furthermore, several European countries (notably, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK) have introduced legislation making integration a prerequisite for residency and naturalization. Those who are accepted into the country on permanent basis (including family members in most cases) are required to pass language and integration tests. Citizenship tests, long a practice in the traditional immigration countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia, are now administered in a number of European countries (the UK, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, and Germany).
Often, these policy moves are located within debates about the ‘adverse effects of diversity’ on social trust and solidarity, and consequently on the prospects of security and the welfare state, drawing upon Robert Putnam's (2007) long-term research on the topic. Putnam's work has generated industrious research employing data within and beyond the USA, some questioning and providing alternative interpretations of Putnam's own evidence (for the most updated review, see Portes and Vickstrom 2011). Despite the divided view in the social science literature, policy circles have capitalized on Putnam's work in raising concerns about immigrant diversity and the weakening social fabric of society. European intellectuals and politicians have eagerly declared the failure of multiculturalism, while intense debates on common values, identity, and solidarity have animated European public spheres.
The migration–security nexus, in the context of heightened preoccupation with terrorism and urban riots, to a large extent dictates the urgency assigned to integration and social cohesion in European policy circles (Guild, Groenendijk and Carrera 2009). Integration language also proffers a way to reclaim ‘national boundaries’ in a climate where electoral opinion is apparently averse to migration, and where right-wing populism is relentless. On the other hand, these immediate political imperatives and the much-exercised national rhetoric in public and policy debates do not necessarily explain the underlying logic of the integration policy agenda.
Indeed, despite the symbolic status they command, current citizenship and integration tests do not reveal anything distinctive about the particularities of the nation (bar the questions about ordinary symbols such as the flag, the national anthem, the national poet) or a nationally distinct philosophy of integration. A systematic review of the content of these tests finds that the largest thematic category addresses the notions of individual rights and democracy (Michalowski 2009; see also Joppke 2007). The history questions are in the main geared toward capturing the present-day of the country and Europe. The questions to appraise values are primarily related to the rights of the individual, such as civic freedoms, and the rights of the underprivileged sections of society such as women and the disabled. Knowledge of democratic institutions and legal structure occupies a prominent place, in anticipation of a right-bearing individual fluent in a world of tax offices, schools, courts, and labour markets. In integration courses, language instructions are accompanied by specialized topics on institutions and social life such as health, education, upbringing of children, social participation and volunteer work, sports and leisure, employment, job search, and basic skills training. Constitutional values are taught, with emphasis on respect for individual freedoms and law-abidance.10
A similar integration programme transpires at the European level. The creation of a common immigration policy framework preoccupied the EU throughout the 1990s. The precepts of this framework, which were finally formalized in the 1999 Tampere meeting, strongly prioritize ‘integration’ and ‘social cohesion’ (Carrera and Parkin 2011). The integration concept put forward in the common framework emphasizes the formal rights of individual immigrants, their active participation and adherence to the European values (specified broadly as human rights, freedom of opinion, democracy, tolerance, equality between men and women, and the compulsory schooling of children) without having to relinquish their own identity (European Commission 2003).11
Integration, as conveyed by these national- and European-level frameworks, is not a nation-centered project. It is not posed as a process of confirming or furthering national collectivity and identity. Instead, the thrust is on the individual immigrants' capacities and efforts to take part productively in the rights and institutions offered in the system. Potential immigrants are expected to prove their worth and fit, as anticipated by the new entry and residency regulations. Citizenship or residency is ‘earned’ on the basis of who is worthy, who can contribute and be productive. Integration acquires a new purpose – the purpose of achieving social cohesion in society driven by active, participatory, and productive individuals.
As such, there is a great continuum between the fundamentals that animate the immigrant integration agenda and the European social project as I outlined above. They both prescribe the individual, rather than the state, as the main bearer of responsibility for social cohesion. By so doing, they also depart radically from the original template and historical development of social citizenship. Throughout the twentieth century, as citizenship and social justice ideals coupled, European states institutionalized forms of individual security through progressive and distributive welfare arrangements. Solidarity and feelings of belonging followed as more and more of the ‘excluded’ were brought into the collective body of citizenry through the extension of social rights and provisions. This historical link between redistribution and solidarity, and the institutional arrangements that ensured social cohesion, are overlooked in current European policy frameworks. As the link between social justice and social cohesion is severed, a highly moralized agenda finds its way into public debates and policy, with an increasing push for individual responsibility to seize opportunities and contribute. As ‘outsiders’ immigrants are additionally burdened in this framework – they are asked to demonstrate even more.