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How Has the Lisbon Agenda Reshaped the European Social Model? An Empirical Analysis

Paulo Marques, Isabel Salavisa & Sergio Lagoa

With the international crisis and the launching of the strategy Europe 2020 for the period 2010-2020, a cycle of the European policy came to an end. Now, it is probably the right time to reflect upon the achievements of the Lisbon agenda. This is particularly relevant since the debate about strategies to combine employment, social cohesion and competitiveness through the transition to a knowledge-intensive economy has gained momentum.As regards the social dimension of the Lisbon Strategy, there exists an extensive literature, which focuses mainly on innovations in terms of governance (particularly the Open Method of Coordination) and the process of Europeanization of social policies. As to its actual impact, it has generally been empirically assessed by European institutions. Our main contribution consists of conducting an empirical study of the Lisbon Strategy social impact within a framework which relies upon the concept of activation and active labour market policies and addresses the varieties of the activation models. We argue that the paradigm shift from the provision of welfare to the provision of activation was not inevitable, since the existing social model is the result of political choices and power relationships between the actors involved. We make an extensive empirical analysis that combines descriptive statistics and panel data econometrics (for the period 2000-2010). We draw several conclusions, namely: social cohesion has declined slightly over the period (though to thresholds that do not undermine yet the core of the European Project); a convergence process has taken place across EU countries in terms of social cohesion; and, finally, the employment rate and the expenditure in social protection emerge as key variables to explain the variation in social cohesion.

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