The impact of the financial-economic crisis on the guarantee of social welfare rights
Friday 4th– Saturday 5th September 2015
Background and Aims
This workshop, to be held at the University of York Law School on 4th and 5th September 2015, will focus on the impact of the global financial crisis on the guarantee of social welfare rights. Its key ambition is to explore the question of whether, how, and to what extent the narrative of rights and their enforcement affect (and should affect) social welfare policies in times of economic austerity.
What do we mean by ‘social welfare rights?’
By the terms ‘social welfare rights’ and ‘social welfare policy’, we refer to the state provision of (non-insurance / non-contributory) benefits to its citizens in order to secure their basic welfare: principally, income for those unemployed or unable to work; housing; and health assistance.
The Structure of the Workshop
The workshop is structured around four main themes plus a concluding session:
THEME 1: Welfare Reforms Around Europe
This first theme constitutes a comparison of the experiences of five European states as regards social welfare policy in a time of austerity: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Each presentation will offer a basic outline of the social welfare system (focusing on non-contributory benefits) and then cover the same 4 basic research questions.
- What reforms to national social welfare law have been made as a response to the global financial crisis?
- To what extent and in what ways have the courts (national and international) been engaged in challenges to such reforms of social welfare law?
- What have been the outcomes of such legal challenges?
- What areas of social welfare policy have been protected from reform despite the economic crisis?
THEME 2: The Promise / Limits of Social Welfare Rights in an Age of Austerity
The second theme is intended to build upon the comparative findings arising from the first theme. What can we learn about the role and/or potential of public law, including fundamental rights jurisprudence, in the guarantee of social welfare? Likely research questions here would include the following:
- What role are the courts playing in relation to the provision of social welfare in an age of austerity (restraining, legitimating, defending)?
- How (if at all) have legal challenges to welfare reforms during the economic crisis influenced the development and/or articulation of public law and fundamental rights jurisprudence?
- To what extent and in what ways should public law, including fundamental rights, affect social welfare policies in times of economic crisis?
- What roles should the courts play in relation to the provision of social welfare in an age of austerity?
THEME 3: Theorising the Relationship Between Legal Rights and Social Welfare
The third theme builds on the previous two and engages with deeper theoretical debates on social rights, both legal and political, including sceptical arguments that stem from the idea of the inflation of rights. Likely research questions here would include:
- To what extent is it plausible to account for social welfare rights in terms of human rights?
- How (if at all) is the idea of “welfare conditionality” reconcilable with a theory of rights?
THEME 4: A European Constitutionalisation of Social Welfare Rights?
The fourth and final theme of the workshop runs in parallel to the first three. It specifically considers the guarantee of social welfare within the context of European constitutionalism. Likely research questions would include the following:
- How does the macroeconomic dimension of the European “economic constitution” affect the likelihood of “progressive” social policies, given that Member States fiscal policies are forced to balance welfare entitlements and reduction of financial imbalances?
- How is it possible to reconcile the objective and the actual functioning of the EU single market with such ideas as “social constitutionalism in Europe” or “social European governance” or “a social European citizenship”?
- To what extent should we have faith in EU institutions and EU law to boost a European social model?
- What is the best account (descriptively and normatively) of the relationships between higher courts within the integrated system constituted by EU courts, conventional courts as the social committee, and Member States higher courts as regards the protection of social rights?
The conclusion of the workshop will draw the prior sessions together and in addition connect them with the broader topic of institutional and administrative change which challenges the consolidated forms of public organization and action of democratic institutions at the various levels of government. There will be a roundtable discussion will follow, chaired and introduced by Gianluca Gardini, University of Ferrara. Members of different Italian research units (Torino, Firenze, Roma, Trento) will take part in the round table.
 Which is the subject of a larger research programme – of which the present is a subprogramme – funded by the Italian Ministry for Universities and Research on the impact of the financial crisis entitled: “Democratic Institutions and Public Administrations of Europe: Cohesion and Innovation in the time of Economic Crisis”.
The programme is detailed below. To see the abstracts for the sessions, please click here.
Friday 4th September
|9.30 – 9.45||WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION||Stefano Civitarese and Simon Halliday|
|9.45 – 11.00||Welfare Reforms Around Europe 1: France; Italy||Diane Roman, Université François Rabelais, Tours||Stefano Civitarese, University of Chieti-Pescara (Chair)|
|Alessandra Albanese, University of Florence and Melania D’Angelosante, University of Bologna,|
|11.00 – 11.15||TEA/COFFEE BREAK|
|11.15 – 12.30||Welfare Reforms Around Europe 2: Spain and the UK.||Luis Arroyo and Dolores Utrilla, University of Castilla La Mancha|
|Jed Meers, University of York|
|12.30 – 13.30||LUNCH|
|13.30 – 14.45||The Promise / Limits of Social Welfare Rights in an Age of Austerity||Jeff King, University College London||Marco Goldoni, University of Glasgow (Discussant)|
|Ellie Palmer, University of Essex|
|14.45 – 15.00||TEA/COFFEE BREAK|
|15.00 – 17.00||Theorising the Relationship between Legal Rights and Social Welfare||Stuart White, University of Oxford||Adam Tucker, University of York (Discussant)|
|Beth Watts, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh|
|Francesco Ferraro, University of Milan and University of Girona (Spain)|
|19:00||DINNER||OXO’s Restaurant, The Mount, York, YO24 1GU|
Saturday 5th September
|9.30 – 11.00||A European Constitutionalisation of Social Welfare Rights? (1)||Colm O’Cinneide, UCL, Vice President of European Committee of social rights||Kathryn Wright, University of York (Discussant)|
|Stefano Giubboni, University of Perugia|
|11.00 – 11.15||TEA / COFFEE BREAK|
|11.15 – 12.30||A European Constitutionalisation of Social Welfare Rights? (2)||Francesco Bilancia, University of Chieti-Pescara|
|Emilios Christodoulidis, University of Glasgow|
|12.30 – 13.30||LUNCH|