ESPAnet Annual Conference Warsaw 2023 (onsite only)

streams (TRACKS)

The Organising Committee is happy to present the list of accepted streams for the 21st ESPAnet Annual Conference.
(Please note that streams are called “tracks” in the conference management tool).
1. Disruptive digital welfare states: how automation impacts the welfare state and citizen-state-relations

Emergent social policy literature shows that many technological innovations ‘disrupt’ existing welfare systems and practices and their impacts go beyond the transformation of the way the welfare state operates (van Gerven 2022). Using data-driven welfare provision and attempting to enhance decision-making with artificial intelligence, the idea of digital welfare administration is based on promises of raising the efficiency and effectiveness of public services. However, as cases worldwide show, the data-driven decision-support alters the logic of welfare and the intransparency of systems has led to human rights violations through privacy breaches, inherent biases in automated systems, unequal treatment, and discriminatory impacts (Allhutter et al 2020). In the digital era, the functioning and legitimacy of welfare are challenged by the availability of individual risk profile information (Iversen and Rehm 2022as well as by the functional overload brought about by the demands to mitigate new or revived technology-driven social risks. All this raises concerns that automated decision-making challenges the fundamental principles underlying the welfare state project, such as the pursuit of social justice, the fight against poverty, and principles of universality, equal treatment, and legality.

This panel seeks to contribute to the emerging discussion of the digital transformation of public welfare. We welcome contributions that aim to advance our knowledge about how social policies deal with consequences of new technologies and how social policy analysts can contribute to the better governance of these technologies. We invite for empirical and theoretical contributions focusing on various policy domains, such as active labor market policies, social security systems, health and social care policies and may address the following questions and more:

  • How is welfare automated in various policy domains across Europe and beyond? How do digitalization and automation affect administrative practices and discretion?
  • How is automated decision-making in the public sector co-produced with transformations of welfare? How is the relationship between citizens, organisations and the state reconstituted with emerging digital welfare infrastructures?
  • How do digitalization and automation change political power relations within the welfare state (e.g., between the public and private sector, between various levels of government)?
  • How can the algorithmic governance enacted by digital infrastructures be theorized? How can social policy analysts contribute to the better governance of these technologies?


Karolina Sztandar-Sztanderska (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences), email:
Minna van Gerven (Tampere University), email:
Doris Allhutter (Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW)
Stefano Sacchi (Politecnico di Torino)

Discussant: Magnus Paulsen Hansen


2. Greening welfare states? Investigating eco-social policy to increase welfare state resilience

Meeting human needs within planetary boundaries requires integrated approaches toeco-social risks. So far, silo-thinking in policy and academic research, however, frequently hampers the interlinked perspectives on ecological and social aspects in welfare states. The social impacts of the climate crisis and other ecological crises establish new social risks and require an adaptation and recalibration of welfare states. At the same time, European (welfare) states face structural societal changes to meet the climate goals and become sustainable societies. The role of social policy making and the development of the welfare states in this ecological transition are increasingly researched and form a new research field. With this stream we would like give space to present and discuss interdisciplinary research on sustainable welfare and eco-social policy. We invite theoretical, qualitative and quantitative research on cross-national case studies and comparative research as well as in-depth research focusing on single countries. The presented research might cover but is not limited to the following areas:

 Eco-social policy instruments

• Proposal, design and implementation of new eco-social instruments
• Evaluation of social/environmental policies in terms of their impact in the other field
• Attitudes to and political feasibility of integrated eco-social policies

Eco-social risks in the life course

• Ecological perspectives on pensions, long-term care, childcare, etc.
• Planetary health including the emergence of new health issues e.g. climate anxiety
• Prevalence of new poverty and inequality dimensions, e.g. in energy, housing, food and mobility.

 Comparative perspective on eco-welfare states

• Varieties of welfare states and eco-states and their provisioning systems
• Generational conflicts and gender perspectives as concerns eco-social risks andsocio-ecological transformation
• Change in welfare institutions through the green transition, also at the local or EU level

Socio-ecological transformation of welfare state institutions

• Transformational requirements in moving towards a growth-independent welfarestate and post-growth solutions
• Research on the ecological footprint of social security systems or social and tax policies
• Financing instruments fostering interlinking of social, ecological and equity perspectives.

Environmental labour market development

• Projections and options of green labour market changes, including green skills development
• Environmental impacts of time politics and recalibration of paid and unpaid worktimes
• Integration of ecological considerations into labour law and into activities by union and social interest groups.


Andrea E. Schmidt (Austrian National Public Health Institute), email:
Katharrina Bohnenberger (German Institute for Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research, University of Bremen/University of Duisburg-Essen), e-mail:


3. Intergenerational inequalities and the welfare state in turbulent times

The turbulence and uncertainty of the current era is being exacerbated by multiplecrises, increasing social risks and growing pressures on the welfare state.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, aggravated by climate change, have intensified the food and energy crisis. Across the world this tumult and instability has affected wellbeing and intensified inequalities, requiring deeper academic research and new policy responses. Despite rising proportions of people with higher education, today’s young generations face more difficulties to have children, to acquire well-paidand secure employment, and to access affordable housing, than previous generations. The social policy analysis of these intergenerational inequalities, contextualized by neoliberal structural changes of the welfare state, erosion of public services, insecure labour market, financialization of housing and old age pensions, are crucial for welfare provision in our societies.

Global intergenerational inequalities pose new challenges to the welfare state. The welfare state model that contributed to the well-being of the baby boomer generation is under threat, requiring innovative ways of dealing with the new social risks. Intergenerational justice is being compromised.

This stream aims to understand emerging intergenerational forms of inequality anddiscuss possible ways to mitigate these risks.

It raises a number of related questions: What are the main emerging inequalities between different generations and how may these compromise the future well-being of younger generations? What is the evidence of these inequalities in different areas, such as housing, work, pensions, environment, among others? How have these inequalities grown in different countries and welfare state regimes? What are the attitudes and perspectives of deservingness towards different generations? What are the main trade-offs and social contracts between generations? How can new perspectives, such as eco-social policies or the capability approach, contribute to combating these inequalities? How can social policy promote intergenerational justice without being stuck in a very different past?

Abstracts are invited for papers that seek to address one or more of these questions both theoretically and empirically. They may draw on research that employs qualitative, quantitative or multiple methods. Preference will be given to papers that are cross-national in perspective.


Romana Xerez (School for Social and Political Sciences, Centre for Administration &Public Policies, Universidade de Lisboa), email:
Paula Albuquerque (Lisbon School of Economics & Management, Universidade de Lisboa), email:
Richard Ronald (University of Amsterdam), email:


4. New perspectives on poverty and inequality in Europe

Poverty and income inequality are frequently examined in European social policyresearch, yet their precise measurement, causes, and consequences remain contested. This stream will focus on advancing our understanding of the measurement, causes, and consequences of poverty and income inequality in Europe. Centred on this objective, we invite empirical papers that examine the changing relationship between poverty, income inequality and social policy across Europe.

We also welcome papers that reflect on the conceptual significance of recent empirical advances and methodological innovations in distributional analyses.

On Measurement: We welcome papers that challenge standard measurements of poverty and inequality and reflect on measurement issues for understanding policy effectiveness and impacts. Such papers might capture, for example, the vast heterogeneity of individuals living in poverty, the multidimensionality of poverty and inequality, the appropriate unit of analysis when it comes to theories and indicators of poverty and inequality, or strengths and weaknesses of the at-risk-of-poverty measure in identifying the most vulnerable populations. Considering recent developments, we particularly welcome papers that examine the utility of different measures covering aspects of income, expenditure, material deprivation or subjective indicators.

On Causes: We welcome papers that advance our knowledge on the causes ofpoverty or income inequality across Europe. Studies that compare multipleperspectives – such as individual and demographic explanations of poverty andinequality versus contextual and structural explanations – are particularly encouraged. Analyses that seek to understand how different types of public policies affect poverty and inequality, or how external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic affect these phenomena, are all encouraged.

On Consequences: We welcome papers that investigate the short and long termconsequences of poverty and inequality in Europe, either at the individual, household or societal level. Such papers might relate to the lasting consequences of exposure to childhood poverty, how different dimensions and degrees of poverty affect social outcomes over time, the role of inequality in shaping social relations, how rising inequality itself may affect rates of poverty, or similar themes that fit within this broad focus. All papers that broadly align with these themes are welcome.


Zachary Parolin (Department of Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University), email:
Selçuk Bedük (Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford), email:
Daniel Edmiston (School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds), email:


5. What are needs and how (much) should they be met and by whom?

The purpose of welfare states is often argued to cover the needs of its citizens.

However, what is needs, and is it all needs that the welfare states will and is able tocover? This is the core question for this stream. Basic needs have been argued to coverelements such as food, shelter and health, but is that a sufficient way of describing needs, and is the role of the welfare state only to cover basic human needs, such asincome to avoid living in poverty or education to be able to find a job (ILO definition). Broader understanding of needs may, according to Maslow, include feeling safe and secure, or in the eyes of Sen, have the capabilities for functioning well.

However, this does not inform about neither how strong the support shall be, and whether all needs should be covered, including whether this might give rise to inequalities given individual’s might have different subjective understanding of their needs. Thus, also asking whether there are objective needs to be covered and whether there is a collective recognition and responsibility covering (all) needs.

Further, what the responsibility of the welfare state is, and of what quality and criteriashall these needs be covered.

The stream welcomes proposals from different theoretical approaches as well as moreempirically driven papers. Theoretically, related to, for example, philosophical questions of justice of needs, to understanding of what welfare and care is, and how and to what degree this can be argued to be the role of the welfare state. Empirically, papers can try to discuss level of needs, and even the understanding of unmet needs.


Bent Greve (Roskilde University), email:
Tine Rostgaard (Roskilde University)


6. Welfare states, policies and the life course: regulating risks and shaping trajectories

The relationship between welfare states and individual life courses is central to manysocial policy debates.

Welfare states played an essential role in generating institutionalized life courses and establishing their structure in the first place. By means of transfers, rights and social services, modern welfare states are aiming to get life courses or employment trajectories ‘back on track’, i.e. to remedy disadvantageous states such as illness or poverty, or to prevent risks and disadvantageous transitions (e.g. through preventative healthcare, education or supporting continuous employment). The life course dimension of welfare states is constantly re-negotiated, with ‘new’ life course-relevant risks being ‘discovered’ (such as family-related employment interruptions or long-termcare) and long-existing policies being reshaped (such as unemployment protection). Links between welfare states and life courses have been studied from different angles.

Welfare state research has focused on the construction of risks and on how social policies address risks and needs. These risks and needs are often specific to certain life phases or connected to specific life course transitions. Life course research has often studied (patterns of) longer individual trajectories in education, work or family, and their interrelationships with welfare states.

While concepts such as “normal biographies” describe how welfare states promote certain normative models of the life course, the detailed and complex resulting patterns are also analyzed in this line of research. Although the potential of social policies to intervene in or disrupt trajectories of cumulative disadvantage is often postulated, studies on the relationship between specific policies and their effects on trajectories are less common, not least because of the high demands on data and methods for addressing such questions. Longer-term effects of welfare state regulation on lifecourses can be studied in almost all policy areas, including education, labour marketpolicies, reproduction policies, family policies, health policies, and pensions.

The stream aims at examining the individual-level long-term goals and effects ofwelfare regulation more closely, while also considering how political discourse, differentactors and welfare regulation relate to (actual or assumed) trajectories.

We welcome papers dealing with but not limited to the following questions:  How do welfare states contribute to the creation of typical life course trajectories, e.g. in the realm of family trajectories or employment careers? How do welfare state measures influence life course trajectories or longer life course sequences? Under which circumstances do they have beneficial effects in the sense of disrupting chains of negative events (i.e. “vicious circles”) or preventing such chains (social investment)? Which assumptions and ideas about long-term formation and consequences of life course risks are contained in risk management institutions of welfare states? Acknowledging that life courses are always shaped by a whole set of policies at the same time: How do different policies interact to shape trajectories? How do the aims of different policies relate to each other – are they consistent or conflicting?


Hannah Zagel (WZB Berlin Social Science Center ), email:
Simone Scherger (University of Bremen), email:


7. Resilience and social policy

The concept of ‘resilience’ is increasingly visible in debates on well-being, social policy and the welfare state. Often conceptualized as “well-being despite adversity” or “bouncing back”, the concept of resilience has a number of appealing features: it takes a positive perspective on what individuals and families do to deal with risks, it emphasizes agency, and demands focus on potential future risks (e.g. how many shocks can a person or family deal with before well-being is impaired?).

Yet, from the perspective of social policy research, it can be argued that the concept of resilience is under-developed and lacks a critical edge. Currently, resilience is far better elaborated in such areas as humanitarian or development assistance, foreign policy than in social policy. When thought of in social terms, resilience has mainly been developed as a characteristic of individuals, firms or other organisations rather than of families, states and other social institutions. Developing resilience as a socio-economic and social policy relevant concept may also aid understanding in other domains (e.g.,ecologically) and assist with the review and improvement of EU social policy initiatives –for instance as captured by the indicators in the Social Score board.

Taking the concept beyond the micro level faces challenges but there is work to drawfrom. Hall and Lamont (2013)develop the term ‘social resilience’ to refer to the capacity of groups of people bound together in an organisation, class, racial group, community or nation to sustain and advance their well-being in the face of challenges. Social resilience is an essential characteristic of what they call ‘successful societies’ – namely, societies that provide their members with the resources to live healthy, secure and fulfilling lives. This approach can be contrasted with influential perspectives that emphasise the psychological qualities needed to cope with various types of shocks. The aim of this stream is to bring together a range of perspectives on the use and utility of ‘resilience’ in social policy development and related research. Critical perspectives are particularly welcome. We aim to have a mix of conceptual and empirical papers, and welcome qualitative and quantitative contributions.

Both single country and cross-national work are welcome. The general questions of interest for the stream are not limited to, but include:  How can resilience be conceptualized to be useful in social policy and welfare state research? What strategies do individuals and families have to be resilient?  What are the current intersections between care dynamics and employment dynamics/exigencies, and what trade-offs are encapsulated in policy in these regards?  How can social policy supportthe resilience of individuals and families? What combinations of policies are necessary?

The “Resilience and social policy” stream is hosted by members of the rEUsilienceproject (, on Risks, Resources and Inequalities: Increasing Resilience in European Families. However, submissions from outside of the project will be particularily welcome.


Mary Daly (Oxford University), email:
Rense Nieuwenhuis (Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University), email:


8. Family complexity and social policy around the world

Over the past decades, declines in fertility and marriage, increases in cohabitation and separation, and increases in same-sex partnerships and immigration have changed the demographic context in most countries. Especially striking in this respect is the consequential diversification in family forms. Many children experience their parents’ separation, and an increasing number of these children are splitting time between both parental homes. Furthermore, many parental separations are followed by re-partnering, potentially bringing new earners and/or caregivers, as well as new siblings into the family life.

Moreover, many children live with grandparents or other kin, or even non-relatives. Instability further complicates the picture, with some experiencing several different family forms within their life course. Moreover, many of these changes are not uniformly experienced, but are especially prevalent among those with a lower socioeconomic status. In this light, it warrants consideration that social policies intended to assist families were often initiated during a period in which stable nuclear families with a breadwinning husband and caregiving wife were seen as the norm.

Questions such as whether and to what extent these policies have been adapted to fit contemporary family configurations, and to what extent existing family policies are (still) adequately responsive to specific countries’ family trajectories are therefore highly pressing. Currently, research describes patterns of fertility, partnership dissolution, and living arrangements across various countries, while other research describes general family policies and provides overviews of their effectiveness. However, less is known about how policies work for those with diverse family forms.

For example: How do income support programs work when children split time across parental households? Who is obligated to provide for children when a parent has had children with multiple partners? If a non-biological parent acts as a parent, should they be able to take parental leave? Do the resources and needs of informal cohabitors or co-residing kin factor into benefits? This stream will examine questions like these to explore whether countries adapt their policies in light of contemporary family patterns and how their policies work for diverse family forms. We invite papers that describe differences in family policies across countries, with a particular focus on how these policies incorporate contemporary family patterns.

Papers could address a range of policy areas, including family leave, early childhood education and care, income support, child custody, child support, or housing; indeed, we are interested in how a broad array of policies respond to or are shaped by family change.

We also invite papers that address the effectiveness of policies for those with diverse family forms. Finally, we also invite papers proposing new social and family policies that might fit better with current realities, or papers that assess whether family policies that seem to be working well in one country context would need to be adapted to fit another country context.

As such, we are also particularly interested in papers that consider more than one country. 


Mia Hakovirta  (University of Turku, INVEST Research Flagship Center ), email:  
Elke Claessens (University of Antwerp), email:
Daniel R. Meyer (University of Wisconsin), email:


9. Comparative family policy research with special attention to paid parental leave and early childhood education and care (ECEC) policies

Comparative family policy research may take many routes and while the focus may be on various dimensions, two of the most important components of family policy are arguably parental leave and early childhood education and care (ECEC). Paid parental leave policy scholarship is expanding and includes comparative research on policy development, eligibility to policies, take up and use of policy, and consequences of policy use, not least regarding gender equality and child wellbeing.

The fast expanding research area has led to a number of policy mapping exercises by supranational organisations such as the EU, OECD, WHO, UNICEF, EIGE and the ILO. There are also initiatives for the standardised collection of parental leave policies across 50 countries from researchers in the International Network on Leave Policies & Research which provides annual updates. Comparative research on ECEC has likewise resulted in a number of databases, such as those hosted by Eurostat, ILO, OECD and LIS (Family Policy Database) but has perhaps so far received less attention. The way that both paid parental leave and ECEC policies are defined cross-nationally and thus how their use and consequences are studied is however not always systematic. Also, as policy constructions are changing there is the need to update both terminology and data collection. For instance regarding paid parental leave, sometimes paternity and maternity leave are included in the concept of parental leave, and sometimes paid and unpaid leave are treated as the same. Some countries use completely gender-neutral terminology while others keep part of the paid leave to mothers and fathers separately.

It is often a major challenge to compare the policies in countries where the set-up may seem similar, but some aspects differ. One example is the payment ceiling of the replacement of the benefit being set at very different levels, another example is the period during which leave can be used which differs substantially. Regarding ECEC the fundamental dimensions of access, costs and quality are similarly challenging to compare across countries. One example of difficulties in how to identify affordability of childcare is whether the costs are means-tested, decided by provider or set nationally (or regionally).

This session aims to come closer to a harmonised terminology to better enable systematic comparative studies of policy construction and policy use. Such harmonisation will lead towards a more sound assessment of policy designs and possibly and eventually, a universal terminology. This will also hopefully be a step on the way to a more expansive theoretical understanding of various aspects of family policy.

We welcome comparative studies, and we want to especially draw attention to the theoretical and technical understanding of policies as well as papers paying close attention to the terminology used. Studies on the policy design, on uptake and of consequences are of interest. Studies that use any of the comparative data sources of parental leave policies or ECEC will be of interest. We also welcome research that analyses the potentially transformative impact of the EU directive on Work Family Balance transposition into national polices.


Ann-Zofie Duvander (Stockholm University and Mid Sweden University), email:
Alison Koslowski (University College London), email:
Gerardo Meil (Autonomous University of Madrid ), email:


10. Health in the world of work

Policies on how to deal with health and health risks have been important in the world of work for long. The Covid-19 pandemic shed new light on the essential role of healthy and safe workplaces and working conditions. Moreover, due to demographic changes, all European countries face challenges to extend working lives.

Not becoming severely ill while working or even staying in employment despite chronical illness are important policy goals to the economy and the welfare state. Hence, there are manifold challenges underlining the importance of health in the world of work and making clear that the topic should be part of the broad social policy discourse and research. The stream aims at bringing together (conceptual and empirical) contributions on health in the world of work from different disciplinary and methodological angles. We invite qualitative and quantitative papers, preferably comparative studies. The stream consists of at least two thematic sessions; however, we also invite submissions on the topic going beyond the two themes – those may be clustered in additional sessions.

Theme 1: Occupational safety and health (OSH) – actors and institutions before and after the pandemic.

The pandemic has highlighted problems regarding OSH at work such as: unequal protection between different groups of workers, occupational stratification in rule enforcement and the provision of personal protection, or the patchy or lacking identification of work-related risks even prior to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Such issues emphasize the need to (re-)engage broadly with OSH. We invite contributions, inter alia, fitting to the following topics: evaluation of OSH policies and measures adopted during the pandemic; innovative approaches regarding prevention and protection; promises and pitfalls of the practical use of risk assessments, the multi-level regulatory framework of OSH; rule enactment and enforcement; the role and actions of various actors, inequalities between different groups of workers, for instance linked to access to particular OSH provisions or different levels of protection; initiatives to advance the protection of different groups of workers.

Theme 2: New approaches in health, workability and employment research.

Active labour market and disability policies aim to improve the chance to stay at work or to return to work for ‘chronically ill’ or ‘disabled’ persons (we have a broad understanding of these terms). Such policies may address different levels (e.g. individual or firm level) and sorts of prevention (e.g. secondary or tertiary). This session focuses on new approaches to study the relation between health, workability and employment from a social policy perspective.

We invite contributions on: consequences of health restrictions for careers; new ways of measuring health restrictions and their labour market outcomes, effects of prevention policies at different stages of the life course, employment opportunities for persons with health restrictions, policy approaches towards individuals and/or firms, balancing compensatory and activating policies towards persons with health re-strictions.

Studies adopting a life-course perspective or other longitudinal approaches are especially welcome. 


Martin Brussig (University of Duisburg-Essen), email:

Nadja Doerflinger (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA)), email:
Anita Tisch (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA)

Nico Dragano (University Hospital Düsseldorf)


11. Challenges for ageing policies in turbulent times

European countries face many challenges: not only population ageing but also digitalisation, changing the work organization, such as the emergence of platform work, climate change as well emerging situations as the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, the unexpected migration and energy crises. These mega-trends combined have a diverse impact on ageing policies. For example, changing world of work arrangements affect economic activity, which have a impact on taxes and contributions, but also accumulation of pension rights. Digitalisation creates new opportunities for health care and long-term care systems. Social expenditure is also age-driven – with the rising number of older people there is a need to adjust pension, health-care and long-term care policies, to promote longer working lives and active ageing.  

 There is a need for re-designing ageing policies, which will address the challenges at the same time protecting the well-being of the generations as well as the functioning of the labour market and pension schemes. As such we still need evidence via rigorous evaluations with more understanding of certain measures of various ageing policies which could be considered as effective and acceptable by policy makers and society.   

The results of such analysis should create the basis for discussion, which solutions in the most urgent domains of ageing policies will be the most helpful to tackle these challenges mentioned above. Contributions could be more applied and provide recommendations at various levels of governance (national, regional and local) but we also invite contributions which increase the general knowledge about ageing, the well-being of the elderly, their economic activity, health etc.  

 In this stream, we invite empirical and theoretical contributions that aim to conceptualize and operationalize the evaluation of ageing policies. Contributions that address the synergies and trade-offs between a few ageing policies with empirical analysis are especially welcome. We invite studies dealing with extending working lives, labour market and retirement solutions, the pension system, social and health care sector, informal care. We also welcome studies analysing how different policies contribute to a better quality of life of ageing populations or studies addressing the challenges to social inclusion of older people.   


Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak (Warsaw School of Economics), email:
Jolanta Perek-Białas (Jagiellonian University), email:


12. New modes of working post-pandemic and its implications for social inequalities

The pandemic has given rise to many modes of working across the world. One of the most obvious changes we observe is the sudden rise of homeworking. Before the pandemic only about one out of eight workers in Europe were able to work from home, and this was not done in a regular basis but mostly ad hoc as and when needed (Chung and Van der Lippe, 2020). During the peak of the pandemic, approximately half of all workers were working from home, many of whom almost exclusively and due to the pandemic related lockdown measures that were in place (Eurofound, 2020). Although the rates of homeworking has reduced somewhat in the past year, we see that many workers are now able to work from home at least part of their working hours (Eurofound, 2022). Another new development in the modes of working is the rise of the four-day-week – namely shortening the full-time working hours from 40 hour 5 days to a four day or approximately 3032 hours a week.

Many companies and governments across the world have shown interest in this new approach (Coote et al., 2020; Chung, 2022) with reports of successful trials being published frequently in the past years. Both and other recent changes in the labour market can potentially provide a great boost in enhancing equality in our labour markets – such as enhancing gender equality (Stronge et al., 2019). However, we know from previous studies that both flexible working and shorter working hours may result in exacerbating rather than reducing inequality patterns both across gender lines but also across class (Chung, 2022). For example, mothers working from home may increase their housework and childcare whilst men do not (Kurowska, 2020; Lott, 2019).

This stream aims to invite papers using quantitative, qualitative data, but potentially any theoretical pieces that explore new forms of working practices post-pandemic and how it relates to gender and other types of inequality patterns both in the labour market and at home/domestic and other spheres of life.

The paper themes can include but are not limited to examining flexible working/hybrid working (that is working from home few days a week and in the office a part of the week), homeworking, four-day-week/shorter working hours and:

-its association with the division of housework and childcare at home; involvement of men/fathers in childcare/housework; inequality patterns in the labour market such as career penalties/income trajectories of the above mentioned workforce; inequality patterns in well-being/health outcomes;

-its variation across gender/class/ethnicity/disability status;

-its geographical inequality across regions and or countries.

We also invite papers that examine:

-how social policies and other national institutional (and cultural) contexts moderate or mediate the abovementioned associations;

-how legislative changes at both national and international level (for example the European Commission’s work-life balance directive) influence changes in not only the access to flexible working arrangements but also its outcomes.


Heejung Chung (University of Kent), email:
Anna Kurowska (University of Warsaw), email:


13. Education in the digital age: challenges and needs

This stream aims to offer a global, expert perspective on two key aspects of contemporary society: education and digitalization.

The relationship between education and ICT is highlighted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in ODD 4. In the new vision on education, it was stated that ”information and communication technologies (ICTs) must be harnessed to strengthen education systems, knowledge dissemination, information access, quality and effective learning, and more effective service provision”(Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,

Despite the qualitative and quantitative democratization of education systems around the world, there are still high rates of early school leaving, significant differences between countries in terms of educational performance, equal opportunities for access to education, a weak connection between the educational offer and the current and prospective requirements of the labor market.

Regarding digitalization, although we are talking about an accelerated digitalization process in most fields of activity, the lack of digital skills present both at the level of teachers and students, the lack of access to high-speed Internet both at the level of educational institutions and at the household level are realities that many countries both in the EU and in other areas of the world have to face.

The purpose of this stream is to bring together experts in education and ICT, but also in other areas, doctoral students, and stakeholders to explore the processes related to education for all and those of the expansion and development of ICT in relation to the education process. By participating in this section, we propose not only to explore the problems of education systems and those of digitalization but also to present and analyze solutions, and models that favor equality and equity in education and in terms of ICT access.

The analysis of the challenges and the needs of the education systems in Europe and beyond will be another dimension that we intend to address.

The issues addressed may include (but are not limited to) equalities and inequalities in terms of education and success in education, educational policies, implementation at the national level of EU recommendations regarding education, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and teachers, the transition process from school to the labor market, and the issue of NEETs in the digital age, the impact of leaving school early in the context of modernization and technology in all areas, analyzes related to the digital skills of teachers and students, the importance and the impact of online education, the digitization of education. 


Gabriela Neagu (Research Institute for Quality of Life, Romanian Academy), email: 
Noemia Bessa Vilela (Inštitut pravnih znanosti, raziskave in razvoj na področju prava), email:
Andrius Puksas (aculty of Public Governance and Business, Mykolas Romeris University), email:


14. The subnational dimension of social investment: perspectives, opportunities and challenges

With the evolution towards more service-intensive welfare states, research on the institutional capacities of subnational welfare provision is required. While an increasing number of studies have traced and measured national service oriented social investment reform processes across OECD countries, subnational governance and service delivery implications remain under-researched.

Such limitations are increasingly problematic for understanding ongoing processes of institutional rescaling across European welfare states. As devolution and reforms in social service delivery are effectively transform territorial social policies, they create spaces for local experimentation and bottom-up capacitation in local communities. It is also imperative to discuss social service delivery beyond single (European) countries in light of European Union’s policy making (e.g. ESF), as the latter reinforces sub-national governance capabilities.

This stream aims to explore the subnational articulation and contextual specificity of social investment and encourages papers that focus on the territorial social investment policy making and delivery in fields such as: support for working families & work-life balance; early childhood education and care; active labour market policies; vocational and educational training; long term care & active aging; social inclusion, poverty/vulnerability/inequality reduction.

Papers in this stream are expected to focus on subnational social investment solutions, covering one/more of the following issues (not conclusive):
 the territorial-related (institutional and socio-economic) variables that foster or hinder social investment policies;
– context-aware social investment strategies able to mitigate regional and spatial disparities;
– what actors and resources are mobilized and involved in localized social investment policy design, management, implementation and funding;
– vertical (un)coordination between national administration and subnational layers;
– horizontal policy synergy and discretion at the local level to align capacitating services and benefits;
– integrated mechanisms aimed at ensuring coherence and consistency of standards in policy delivery, better quality policies and robust and resilient public administration;
– learning-by-monitoring policy feedback and tools which allows for in-depth discussion of cause and-effect relations.

We welcome investigations of single territorial units (national or sub-national) and comparative analyses (between or within countries) of diverse methodological approaches as well as conceptual papers – given that they comply to the overall theme of the stream. 


John Brauer (Örebro University), email: 
Anton Hemerijck (European University Institute), email:
Gemma Scalise (University of Milan-Bicocca), email:


15. How do people make sense of the welfare state and social policies? Towards a broader embedding of welfare experiences and attitudes

The stream aims to broaden research perspectives on welfare experiences and attitudes by investigating the links between their features and the multifaceted context in which they are developed. We are interested in contributions which go beyond well-trodden paths of researching the role of individual interest, class and political values in shaping welfare attitudes and their impact on program’s legitimacy. We invite scholars who try to understand how national, institutional meso-level and groups-related discourses, new policy solutions, and collective identities shape the way people make sense of the welfare state. We are particularly interested in approaches which deal with the complexity of contextual factors, such as multilayered welfare state legacy, growing political cleavages, social networks, people’s contradictory experiences with frontline workers and the interplay of sociotropic and egoistic concerns (see recently: Ares, Bürgisser, & Häusermann, 2021; Bussi, Dupuy, & Van Ingelgom, 2022; Garritzmann, Busemeyer, & Neimanns, 2018; Rosenthal, 2021; Shanks-Booth & Mettler, 2019; Simonsen, 2021; Theiss, 2022; Theiss & Kurowska, 2019; Watson, 2015). With this stream we would like to contribute to the development of an approach to policy feedback analysis that is attuned to citizens’ interpretations of the welfare state, policy discourses surrounding their experiences and perceptions and broader policy transformations.

In this stream, we welcome papers that are either empirically-, methodologically- or conceptually-oriented. We particularly invite papers that:

• Present case studies and comparative analyses of welfare debates and how they relate to citizens’ sense-making of the welfare state

• Study citizens’ multiple welfare experiences and perceptions and related conceptualizations of the welfare state

• Focus on the interplay between sense-making and political economies of the welfare state

• Develop new or critically discuss conceptual or methodological approaches, specifically approaches including the temporal dimensions of policy discourses (the constructions of the past and the future), citizens’ experiences and perceptions.


Maria Theiss (University of Warsaw)< email:
Magdalena Rek-Woźniak (University of Łódź), email:
Claire Dupuy, (University of Louvain), email:
Virginie Van Ingelgom (F.R.S.-FNRS, University of Louvain), email:


16. Crossroads of social policy and social work

As social work is rooted in social reform movements, the interrelation between social work and social policy has always been close.

On the one hand, social workers are continuously engaged in promoting social justice and social change. On the other hand, social policy establishes the framework in which professionals of social work act. This strong connection between social work and social policy is also reflected in the ethical documents of the profession or in the global definition of social work. Despite that, previous debates on social work policy practice and social policy change often remained unconnected.

This is changing, however. During the last decade research interest has grown in what could be called a ‘blind spot’ of comparative welfare state research: the interrelation of social work(ers) policy engagement and social policy reform. Social work is at the heart of many societal challenges and urgent social problems, especially in times of multiple crises when people are also at risk of disenchantment with politics and open up for populist claims. Thus, it will become even more important in the future to represent the interests of socially disadvantaged groups in welfare state reforms (better). This stream creates space for contributions dealing with the interrelation between social work and social policy by specifically focusing on policymaking and policy implementation. It offers an opportunity to reflect on these issues in diverse countries with different welfare systems, political institutions, and administrative cultures.

Single country in-depth case studies are welcome as well as comparative papers. The stream includes two complementary perspectives (themes) with the potential for distinct sessions. The first perspective focuses on different forms and strategies of social workers’ policy engagement as well as factors affecting these types of engagement. The second perspective concentrates on the impact of social work policy engagement and policy practice on social policy reform. Therefore, contributions dealing in particular (though not exclusively) with the following questions are invited:

Theme 1: Exploring Roots and Routes of Social Workers’ Policy Engagement
• What forms and strategies of policy engagement do social workers employ?
• Which factors may explain why and how social workers engage in policy (practice)?
• How does social policy affect social workers’ policy engagement?
• What are the specifics of social workers’ policy engagement when compared to the involvement of other professionals and actors in the social policy field?
• Which theoretical perspectives are useful to examine roots and routes of social workers’ policy engagement?

Theme 2: Examining the Impact of Social Work(ers) on Social Policy Change
• What are appropriate methods to trace policy effects of social work policy engagement/practice empirically?
• What are furthering or hindering conditions for social policy change induced ‘from bellow’, i.e. in the interest of socially disadvantaged or poor people, represented or accompanied by social workers?
• How is political action of social work(ers) in the realm of welfare state reform (de-)legitimised?
• Which theoretical perspectives from different disciplinary angles are useful to guide our understanding of the connection between social policy change and social work(ers) policy engagement?


Theme 1:

Tobias Kindler (Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences), email:
Agnieszka Zogata-Kusz (Palacký University Olomouc), email:

Theme 2:

Simone Leiber (University of Duisburg-Essen), email:
Sigrid Leitner (University of Applied Sciences Cologne), email: 


17. Making an impact - social policy in action

The year 2022 marked 80 years since Sir William Beveridge presented his Report on ‘five giant evils’ in the UK as well as policy responses to  implement in order to combat these ‘social ills’. These policy responses laid the foundation of what came to be understood as a collective areas of concern, or social policy areas, where the role of the state often came to play a central role. Focus was on vulnerable groups in society and on improving their situations for the common good. Not only did this take place in the UK, but all over Europe and beyond.

Over the past few decades, much European social policy research has focused on various areas of the welfare state, and an abundance of data has enabled great scholars to give theoretical explanations to many of the questions in social policy and on the politics of the welfare state. Scholars have focused on various aspects of comparative social policy, as well as on the new social risks/’social ills’ that have emerged. Social policy scholars have concluded that indeed, ‘social ills’ vary over time and place, and still exist today. Particularly the past few decades, social policy research has focused on the negative impact privatisation and austerity measures have had on already vulnerable groups.

The past few years, however, the word ‘impact’ has become central in social science research in general, and in social policy research in particular, for different reasons. Not only is the scholar’s ability to show the impact of their research vital in funding applications, but the very core of social policy is indeed about creating a positive impact for vulnerable groups for the common good.

Therefore, this stream focuses on practical effects/results of evidence-based social policy research. We call for papers on bold evidence-based research that push for social policy change to improve the lives of vulnerable groups in society, such as people experiencing poverty, lone-parent households, immigrants, people with disabilities and/or ill health etc. The paper can also focus on innovative ideas or models on how to combat ‘new social ills’ and challenges to the welfare state, such as the gig economy, an ageing society, immigration, in-work poverty etc. Whilst the policy process is complex, in this stream we encourage academic scholars to think of solutions to existing social problems. We especially welcome abstracts from academic scholars who collaborate with non-academic organisations (e.g., local councils, national and international charities, local and national politicians etc.) to improve the lives of people of vulnerable groups. Thus, the purpose of this stream is to gather academic scholars who seek to make a change through their research, and therefore all types of data sets, topics, methodologies and affiliations are welcome.


Josefine Nyby (London Metropolitan University), email: 
Mikael Nygård ( Åbo Akademi University), email:


18. The EU social policy and the right to adequate minimum wages

The Directive (EU) 2022/2041 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 October 2022 on adequate minimum wages in the European Union was adopted in view to improve living and working conditions in the Union, in particular the adequacy of minimum wages.

The setting and the updating of statutory minimum wages should allow for achieving of a decent standard of living, reducing in-work poverty, promoting social cohesion and to reducing gender pay gap. It is expected that the Member States define their own criteria. Moreover, the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), proclaimed at Gothenburg on 17 November 2017, establishes a set of principles to be used as a guide, namely that adequate minimum wages should provide for the satisfaction of the needs of the worker and his or her family considering national and social conditions, since these states may face different economic constraints.

The experience of Living Wage initiatives in Europe (nationwide or voluntary and locally based) is a good example of implementation of this principle. Such policy measures, intending minimum wages adequacy, may face some trade-offs with other objectives, e.g. of economic feasibility and social acceptability. Considerations of adequacy may also require a mix of fiscal and social protection policies needed to reach income adequacy for workers´ households, due to various family configurations of the households, both in size and composition (and the need of compensatory family allowances) and due to internal differences of cost of living (namely housing costs). We expect that this stream will gather contributions from different national realities regarding the discussion and implementation of adequate minimum wages.

Papers are expected to focus both on the criteria of adequacy, on the design of the mix of policies supporting them, and the potential effect of such measures on poverty, on employment and on gender pay gap. Different approaches are accepted, and a multidisciplinary approach is welcomed, either a qualitative or a more quantitative oriented approach.

No comparative analysis is required, but a focus on European social policy is very welcome. We intend to propose a special issue on this topic to a peer-reviewed scientific journal with a selection of the papers submitted to this stream.


José António Pereirinha (GHES/CSG, ISEG,Universidade de Lisboa), email:
Elvira Pereira (CAPP, ISCSP, Universidade de Lisboa), email:
Micheál Collins (School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, University College), email:


19. Youth policy in European welfare states: trends, challenges, and innovations

Social policy encompasses a variety of policies that affect different groups in society, including young people.

Youth policy can be considered a subset of social policy that is both targeted towards or will have implications for young people. Thus, a broad spectrum of policies are relevant for young people (as well as researchers interested in studying youth policy), including (but not limited to) those on education and training, (un)employment, housing, wellbeing, and health. Examinations of youth policy also have the potential to provide insights into important debates within social policy, including comparative analysis, social citizenship, policy evaluation, and policy learning or transfer. Youth policy scholars can contribute to important debates about the social valuation implications of different policies, such as activation, as well as the theoretical implications from and lived experiences of policies that contribute to stratification and dualization. In addition to employment and education policies, many young people cite housing and environmental policy as high on their own priority lists. Moreover, researchers have also recently begun emphasizing the importance of wellbeing and mental health, including the relationship between them and welfare state design. As such, there is room for youth policy research to expand into non-traditional research areas.

With youth policy being developed at the supranational, national, and local levels, the inherently cross-sectoral nature of and multilevel governance approach to youth policy could provide fertile ground for empirical and theoretical work in these areas as well. Notably, both the European Union and the Council of Europe are actively involved in shaping the direction of youth policy in their respective member states. Furthermore, street-level bureaucrats are responsible for delivering policies, playing a crucial role in deciding who gets what, when, and where. At the individual level, young people, as actors, exercise their agency in applying for programs, engaging in civil society, and contributing to political movements. Additionally, the intersectionality of young people’s belonging to various groups influences how they experience different policies or how targeted policies are developed for them. 

This stream addresses questions on how social policies that will either target or affect young people are developed and being translated into practice. It also seeks to outline trends (past and present) as well as challenges and innovations in the field. Some broad questions of relevance, among others, include: What is youth policy? What can trends in youth policy tell us about the concept of social citizenship in welfare states? What approaches to youth policy are effective, e.g., mainstreaming vs sectoral? How can we assess the impact of a given youth policy? What are the impacts of youth policy on individuals? What policies are needed to improve the conditions of young people in society?

The stream welcomes with equal interest diverse methodological approaches as well as empirical and theoretical contributions.


Veronika Knize (Institute for Employment Research), email:
Natalie Glynn (Institute for Political Science, University of Tübingen), email:


20. Southern European welfare states under changes

Since the 1990s, there is a lively scientific debate about the key features of Southern European welfare states. The original debate in the 1990s actually framed Southern European welfare regimes either as a “weak” or “under-developed” version of the Continental Conservative regime, or as a model in itself – characterised by a mixed institutional configurations (Bismarckian in income maintenance schemes, Beveridgean in healthcare), absence of last resort safety nets, bias toward cash transfers and, last but not least, familialism.

In the last three decades, however, many changes have affected these welfare states. On the one hand, some of the changes were endogenous through social policy innovation. On the other hand, major external shocks prompted policy reforms: from the 2007-08 financial shock and the subsequent Euro-crisis – with related austerity plans – up until the Covid-19 pandemic and the following Next Generation EU Recovery Fund plans, as well as the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and the energetic crisis fuelling inflation. In parallel with these major shocks, and partly connected to them, political competition dynamics in Southern European countries have been dramatically transformed due to the de-structuring and subsequent re-structuring of party systems – with the crisis of some of the traditional (conservative and social-democratic) parties and the rise of new (often populist) parties.

Against such backdrop, it is time to assess whether the original analytical characterization of the Southern European welfare states still holds or it needs to be reviewed. What can be said about the specificities of Southern European welfare states after more than 30 years of research and policy changes? Does it hold as a model in itself or has it evolved towards a different direction? Can the original four countries belonging to this welfare state model (Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) still be put together or they have split apart? To what extent have Southern European welfare states been able to cope with rising socio-economic challenges – from “new” social risks to digitalisation and ecologically sustainable transition? Are socio-institutional characteristics such as familalism or clientelism still able to describe the functioning of these welfare states? Has the Next Generation EU Recovery Fund been able to strengthen Southern European welfare states and in which direction? How has the relationship between politics and social policies changed over time, especially after a decade of transformations in the political landscape with the rise of populist parties and the (partial) crisis of traditional ones?

The session welcomes contributions trying to answer these and similar questions, adopting either a comparative approach or a single case study approach. In the latter case, contributions should aim to provide answers to the more general issue of Southern European welfare states’ specificities in the European context.


Emmanuele Pavolini (University of Macerata), email:
Matteo Jessoula (University of Milan), email:


21. Public policies in the Nordic welfare states: challenges and responses

Nordic welfare states remain crucial reference points in debates concerning the feasibility of various policy solutions. They endure, occupying top positions in international rankings, regardless of the voices of critics expecting their demise and bankruptcy. Although internally diverse, they have effectively debunked the myth that governments “should just not interfere”, with their successes attributed to the active role of the state and implementation of evidence-based policies allowing both economic / technological growth and an increase in the quality of life of their citizens. As active and entrepreneurial states they have achieved successes in the most modern and technologically advanced sectors of the economy while maintaining egalitarian redistribution schemes and generous welfare spending. Recently, Nordic states proved their resiliency during the pandemic: Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Denmark are among the countries with the lowest coronavirus death rates, twice lower than the EU-average. The indicators suggest that the economies of the Nordic states bounced back quickly after the downturn caused by the lockdowns.

We invite abstracts of papers concerning the challenges that Nordic welfare states currently face and the responses they discuss and / or implement. We particularly welcome comparative attempts, both intra-Nordics and comparing public policies of Nordic state(s) to the states from different geographical context. The non-exhaustive list of challenges that may inspire the abstracts’ proposals includes the following issues:

• Due to the growing ethnic diversity, fundamental challenges concern the questions of social citizenship and welfare chauvinism as demonstrated by the increase in support for far-right parties with anti-immigration stances;

• Integration of migrants and their socioeconomic position is and will be a crucially important issue from the perspective of the social cohesion of Nordic societies, since migration is perceived as a possible panacea for the greying of the Nordic population and unfavourable fertility rates;

• Some policies are under constant pressure to incorporate pro-market solutions in accordance with the neoliberal narrative and the gradual dismantling of certain aspects of traditional Nordic welfare regimes is ongoing, although the process is diverse;

• Domestication of the start-up culture and expansion of a digital platform economy threatens the stability of labour relations (also in the most advanced segments of the labour market);

• Urban policies in Nordic cities, particularly trends of mega-investment-based development, are frequently implemented in a way impacting social cohesion;

• Although the healthcare systems of Nordic states are amongst most stable and cost-effective, they are under growing pressure to introduce further commercialization of the services;

• Recently, Finnish basic income experiment raised questions about long-term feasibility of the current model of welfare spending and potential innovative solutions to budgetary challenges;

• Environmental concerns create additional context for the functioning of the Nordic welfare states implementing sustainable transformation which also affects welfare provisions and their distribution;

• Promoting social cohesion internally, Nordic states and companies participate in aggressive competition in the global markets creating direct and indirect economic pressures for other societies in and outside Europe.


Liisa Häikiö (Tampere University)

Magdalena Rek-Woźniak (University of Łódź)

Wojciech Woźniak (University of Łódź), email: 


22. CEE welfare states and social policies in the era of democratic backsliding

We have entered the fourth decade since the reform of social policies inherited from state socialism began in the 1990s. In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the era of state capitalism began, marked by processes of democratisation, Europeanisation and more or less decentralisation. The pressure of various social problems such as unemployment, poverty, migration and a changing age structure of the population played a major role in shaping the new welfare regimes in these countries. Also, new ideas and interests have shaped socio-economic policy agendas in the region.

One important change that has taken place over the last decade is that there have been clear processes of de-democratisation in some countries. The pressure of some social problems has decreased, such as unemployment and poverty, while the relative importance of other problems related to migration and population ageing has increased. How has the combination of de-democratisation and demographic trends influenced social policy reforms in different CEE countries and in the region as a whole?

The stream welcomes both theoretical and empirical (qualitative, quantitative and mixed) papers that focus on the welfare states of formerly communist countries in the decade of democratic backsliding. The papers are preferably comparative, but country case studies with a more general and theoretical approach can be accepted as well. The topics covered may include, but need not be limited to the relations between illiberal politics and social policy, the interplay between the EU agenda and national responses or institutional continuity and change.


Ryszard Szarfenberg (University of Warsaw), email:
Dorota Szelewa (University College Dublin)
Michał Polakowski (Economic and Social Research Institute)


23. Immigration and the welfare state

The recent increase of migration into the European welfare states invokes strong feelings within the native population.

It is well known by now, that at least parts of the European populations are very sceptical about sharing welfare with newcomers. This wave of “welfare chauvinism” has, however, not hit Europe evenly, as attitudes to migrants’ receiving welfare benefits and services vary across the continent. Further, these attitudes have not translated into similar politics and policy across all countries.

We invite papers that study where, when and why natives oppose sharing welfare with migrants and how that is translated into politics. Seen from the migrant’s perspective the relationship with the welfare state might not be straightforward, either. We know that migrants tend to use welfare benefits and services more than the natives, but to a lesser extent than they are entitled to. This “gap” in welfare usage has been tied to a number of factors including migrants’ knowledge of welfare rights, their views on the welfare state, socialization, values, as well as socioeconomic differences between migrants and natives.

However, we still know very little about the immigrant perspective of the welfare state. We, therefore, invite all papers that explore the relationship between migrants and the welfare state in all its complexities. All papers that combine the two areas of immigration and the welfare, whether they study them qualitatively, quantitatively or normatively, are welcome.

Possible areas include, but are not limited to:
– Migrants’ usage of welfare benefits and services
– Migrants’ attitudes to the welfare state and the surrounding society
– Migrants’ knowledge of their social rights
– Consequences of welfare usage regarding migrants’ integration chances
– Natives’ attitudes to sharing welfare resources with migrants
– Studies of when and how this welfare chauvinism spill over into politics


Verena Seibel (Utrecht University), email:
Friederike Römer (University of Bremen)


24. Ukrainian war refugees – consequences and challenges

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine triggered the largest migration exodus after the Second World War. By the end of 2022, more than 10 million Ukrainian citizens had crossed the borders of the European Union. At the same time, more than 7.5 million of them have returned to their country. This means that around 2.5 million Ukrainians remain in various EU countries.

Most of them are in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. The influx of war refugees (forced migrants) has created enormous challenges for the public policies of the host countries, especially for those that previously had no experience of receiving large numbers of immigrants. Consequently, these states had to face in a very short period of time the provision of accommodation for refugees to stay, access to health care, education for children, create conditions for entering the labour market and much more. In addition, these people, under the EU Directive on assistance to those fleeing war in Ukraine, were included in the social assistance system. At the same time, in Ukraine alone, more than 7 million people had to change their place of residence becoming internally displaced persons.

This, in turn, has become a huge challenge not only for the Ukrainian government, but above all for local administrations outside of Ukraine, which have had to cope with the presence of many additional people, especially in a situation of constant attacks by Russian troops on Ukrainian critical infrastructure.

The stream will welcome proposals for papers showing and analysing the response of governmental and local government institutions, NGOs and civil society in European countries, including EU members, and Ukraine to the influx of war refugees (including internally displaced persons). Comparative papers on the reactions to the influx of refugees in several countries will be particularly welcome.

During the stream we would like to discuss, among others, the following questions: 

  • How does the influx of war refugees from Ukraine differ from previous influxes of forced migrants to Europe?
  • What is the scale and type of support for war refugees from Ukraine, especially in terms of the public policy?
  • What are the good practices of assistance applied by different countries and diverse actors (ie. governments, local governments, NGOs)?
  • Can future migration decisions of refugees from Ukraine already be predicted?
  • What is the economic balance of expenditures from state budgets to assist war refugees and income from their employment in the labour market?
  • What challenges do war refugees face in accessing education, the labour market, health care, etc.?
  • How is Ukraine dealing with internally displaced persons?


Maciej Duszczyk (University of Warsaw), email:
Michał Nowosielski (University of Warsaw, WSB University in Gdańsk)
Karolina Podgórska (Maria Curie-Sklodowska University)


25. The politics of welfare state reform: How governments, parties, and ideologies shape and reform social policies

Linking politics and social policy is key for better understanding of the causes of policy outputs and outcomes. Political actors and their ideology hereby play a crucial role as they shape the course of political action and policy reform and thus affect citizens’ social security, and ultimately liberal and economic freedoms. Political ideologies not only explain changes in the direction of reforms, but their legacies also determine the level and shape of social welfare provision. 
While partisan theory has been declared ‘dead’ at times, this stream aims to highlight the importance of politics as one of the most important and persistent driver of social policy reform.

We invite contributions that show how political actors and their respective ideologies influence the design of social policy and/or the reform trajectory of existing policy. In particular, we are interested in contributions that shed light on the role of (sub)national actors, political parties, institutional veto players, and individual or organized interests in social policy reform processes. Potential contributions may explore these linkages in relation to all areas of social policy, e.g., benefits related to working life, pensions, health or education. 

We aim to bring together contributions from different neighboring disciplines (e.g., political science, political economy, social policy, and sociology) to stimulate discussion on complementary theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of the politics of social policy reform.

Contributions may have either an empirical or a more theoretical focus emphasizing the link between politics and social policy reform. Methodologically, we are open to a range of different contributions including small and large-N comparative designs as well as single case studies or process-tracing analyses.


Kenneth Nelson (SOFI, University of Stockholm; DSPI, Oxford University), email:
Jan Helmdag (Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)), email:
Nils Düpont (SOCIUM, University of Bremen), email: 


26. The politics of education

Environmental, technological, and security challenges have fundamentally reshaped the conditions in which education systems operate, and the challenges they must respond to. Consequent conflicts about the distribution and control over the delivery of skills, values, and educational credentials have been resolved in different ways – and with different degrees of innovation. The determinants and mechanisms shaping these reform processes, and the resulting institutional variation, show striking similarities as well as instructional differences to the dynamics underlying welfare state development. Yet, education policy has been until recently at the margins of welfare state research. This stream aims to give education policy an important place in the study of social policy.

We welcome submissions that focus on the politics of education. We are particularly interested in papers that explore:

– drivers of education policy reforms (e.g. institutions; structural changes; preferences, organisation, and strategies of parties and organised interests; ideas and discourse), 

– trajectories of institutional change, and associated socio-economic outcomes (e.g. social inequality; social mobility; public attitudes; stakeholder organisation and power). 

We welcome contributions that examine these issues with reference to all sectors of formal education, including school education, vocational education, and higher education. Methodologically, we are open to a range of different contributions, including single case studies, comparative case studies or large-N designs.

We would like to bring together contributions from different neighbouring disciplines (e.g., politics; political economy; social policy; education; sociology) to stimulate discussion on complementary theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of the politics of education. 


Anja Giudici (Newcastle University), email: 
Niccolo Durazzi (University of Edinburgh), email:


27. Inter- and transnational social policy: Bringing together researchstrands, evidence and ideas for studying global interdependencies

Social policy research has increasingly started to look beyond national factors to explain why welfare policies are debated or introduced, studying dynamics and learning processes between states and the impact of transnational discourses and international organizations. For instance, global social policy focuses on the role, proposals and ideas of global actors in different fields of welfare policy such as health care system design (Kaasch,2015). A related set of studies analyzes how IOs encourage countries to adopt policy principles or programs through different mechanisms such as learning, emulation or coercion. The diffusion of conditional cash transfer programs to developing countries, which has been pushed by IOs, especially the World Bank, is an example showing such vertical policy interdependencies (Sugiyama, 2011). A policy idea can not only depart from the global level, but also travel from country to country: National-level actors such as bureaucrats, politicians, and experts engage in international horizontal policy transfer. Likewise, their motivations have been explained by the conventional typology of policy diffusion / transfer mechanisms. For instance, Latin American countries learned from each other regarding pension privatization reforms (Weyland, 2005).

The various research strands outlined above have all contributed important insights on inter-and transnational social policy making. However, our understanding of policy interdependencies and their relation to global social policy discourses seems still relatively poor, which is reflected in works to revise or criticize the prominent typology of the mechanisms of policy diffusion and transfer (e.g., Blatter et al., 2022). Moreover, the findings and theoretical frameworks of the different strands do not speak very well to each other.

We invite empirical or theoretical contributions that analyze inter- and transnational social policy – be it with a focus on horizontal and vertical diffusion/transfer or global actors and ideas – to facilitate a better understanding and theorizing in this area. One topic we expect to be promising in this regard is the comparison of policy interdependencies in Global North and Global South countries. This could help us to reveal what facilitates or constrains policy transfer in social policymaking more generally. In particular, we therefore invite studies with a comparative perspective. In addition, we also welcome single case studies which offer novel (theoretical) insights and theoretical or conceptual contributions.


Migyeong Yun (University of Bremen), email:
Meika Sternkopf (University of Bremen), email:
Johanna Fischer (University of Bremen), email:


28. Quantification in social policy: values, normative agendas andinterests behind numbers

Quantitative measures such as indicators, indices, rankings or algorithmic tools are increasingly used to legitimise welfare reforms and settle disputes in different areas of social policy. They are applied to justify decisions on the allocation of resources and access to services, budget cuts, the selection of target and ‘deserving’ groups, as well as the introduction of new legislative solutions. They are also used to assess performance of welfare state policies and institutions.

Yet, as studies of quantification have indicated numbers, rather than being instruments of rationalisation and objectification, are carriers of values and are often deeply political innature (Espeland and Sauder 2016; Espeland and Stevens 2008). This is inherent in both the process of their creation and the implications of their use in decision-making. Quantitative measures provide legitimacy to normative agendas, policy paradigms and interests of different policy actors (Boswell 2009; Rottenburg etal. 2015). They also serve as tools of normalisation (Foucault 1977)– they help establish norms and make it possible to measure, order and compare individuals, groups or organisations according to these norms. However, through mechanical objectivity(Porter 1995)– perceiving numbers as based on strict statistical procedures, and therefore impersonal and neutral – their normative dimension often remains hidden. It allows for the obfuscation of power relations and interests behind numbers, which poses threats to democratic accountability, especially in the face of contemporary crises such as political polarisation, the COVID-19 pandemic, migration or climate change.

This session will explore the normative dimension of numbers applied in different areas of social policy and their ability to conceal political interest under the guise of objectivity or technicality. We welcome empirical and theoretical papers that focus on the mechanisms through which power relations, normative agendas and paradigms in social policies are legitimised and reproduced by numbers, and that problematise quantification practices and processes related to the welfare state.


Marianna Zieleńska (University of Warsaw), email:
Carlotta Mozzana (University of Milano-Bicocca), email:


29. Causal inference in social policy analysis

Social policy analysis at heart is interested in identifying causal relationships. We are interested in the reasons for policy changes, we are interested in policy effects, we are interested in why some policies are more popular than others. Yet, social policy analysis has been struggling with the establishment of causal relationships because it has to deal with a special set of problems. We often encounter issues such as collinearity, multiple alternative explanations, and limited variation in our explanatory variables as a consequence of the country-comparative setup of our research.

Recently, the social sciences have witnessed a surge in studies aiming to isolate causal effects. By applying the so-called potential outcomes framework of causality, this wave of research does not overtly emphasize advanced econometric models, but puts the focus on research design. Based on the “gold standard” of randomized experiments it brings along a distinct way of thinking about how to set up studies and how we can identify causal relationships. Moreover, with the emergence of further practical tools and methods, such as directed acyclic graphs, and better data availability, more and more analyses of social policies have come to tackle these issues and are able to identify causal relationships in our research field.

This stream aims to foster exchange between researchers in comparative social policy analysis who put a special focus on causal analyses. In particular, we invite contributions relying on natural or quasi-natural experiments, survey experiments, matching, instrumental variables, fixed effects panel designs, difference-in-differences-approaches, and regression discontinuity designs. The stream invites paper proposals from all fields of social policy research. Paper proposals should include the research question, theoretical background, and (first) results, but also provide specific detail on the analytical approach taken to establish causality. The stream is also open to contributions that aim to present research proposals and discuss research designs.


Thomas Biegert (London School of Economics and Political Science), email:
Elias Naumann (GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, University of Mannheim), email:  &



Papers that do not fit to one of the tracks/streams above but cover subjects and issues that may be interesting for the broader ESPAnet community, can be sent in for the Track 30 Open Stream. The organising committee will evaluate them for inclusion in the conference program.


Anna Matysiak (University of Warsaw), email:
Bartosz Pieliński (University of Warsaw), email:



The book you submit must be published in 2022 or 2023, fit the general research interests of the ESPAnet community and not yet presented at any ESPAnet conference. 


Book abstracts will be ranked by the Conference Organizing Committee based on the extent the book fits the general research interests of the ESPAnet community and the number of presentation slots available during the conference. 

Do you have any questions regarding this conference?

We are happy to assist you!

University of Warsaw

Faculty of Political Science and International Studies
Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28
00-927 Warsaw, Poland

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