Whole-COMM at the XVI Conference ESPAnet Italia

Between September 13 and 15, at the University of Milan, the XVI Conference ESPAnet Italia, titled “Welfare systems in transition: between equity and sustainability,” will bring together scholars and experts in the field of social protection. Among them is Irene Ponzo, Whole-COMM researcher, who will bring to light the project’s findings through the paper co-authored with Eleonora Milazzo from the Egmont Institute and European Policy Centre, and Orlando Di Gregorio from FIERI, titled “La progettificazione delle politiche di welfare: quali conseguenze per la governance dell’integrazione nei comuni italiani?” (The design of welfare policies: Implications for integration governance in Italian municipalities).

The Conference Theme

Over the past half-century, a series of slow-moving structural shifts, recurring multidimensional crises, labor market reforms, and the emergence of “green” and “digital” transitions have all left their mark on the social protection systems established during the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1975). These changes have created complex challenges that require innovative solutions.

In response to these challenges, welfare systems have undergone significant restructuring along several dimensions:

  1. Functional Evolution: Resources have been reallocated to various social protection sectors to adapt to evolving societal needs.
  2. Distributive Focus: There’s a concerted effort to protect groups that were previously overlooked or were particularly vulnerable to “new social risks.”
  3. Political and Institutional Transformation: Some actors have assumed more prominent roles in the realm of welfare. This shift occurs both along the vertical axis, involving entities such as the European Union, regions, and municipalities, and along the horizontal axis, encompassing third-sector “not-for-profit” organizations, charities, trade unions, firms, employers’ organizations, as well as banking and insurance companies and associations.

These transformations have set welfare systems on a course of transition, leading to more intricate and fragmented configurations. These new configurations must, nonetheless, ensure social cohesion and inclusion in the coming decades, all within a context characterized by slower economic growth, global instability, and mounting social insecurity and vulnerability.

Given this backdrop, the conference seeks to stimulate extensive discussions and contemplation on the effectiveness of these highly intricate and evolving “welfare systems in transition.” It grapples with the formidable challenge of striking a delicate balance between the primary goal of equity and the simultaneous pursuit of economic, financial, social, political, and environmental sustainability.

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