The Working Poor in Europe

The Working Poor in Europe

Employment, Poverty and Globalization

Edited by Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann

For a long time in-work poverty was not associated with European welfare states. Recently, the topic has gained relevance as welfare state retrenchment and international competition in globalized economies has put increasing pressures on individuals and families. This book provides explanations as to why in-work poverty is high in certain countries and low in others.

Chapter 11: Combating In-Work Poverty in Europe: The Policy Options Assessed

Ive Marx and Gerlinde Verbist

Subjects: development studies, development studies, economics and finance, labour economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, labour policy


Ive Marx and Gerlinde Verbist INTRODUCTION In this chapter, we pose the question: what can policy do to prevent and alleviate in-work poverty? Three initial remarks are in order before we move on to what will inevitably be a concise review of policy alternatives. First, as the chapters in this book make clear, in-work poverty in Europe is a diverse, multifaceted phenomenon that occurs in equally diverse institutional, economic and socio-demographic settings. Any effective set of policy measures to prevent or alleviate in-work poverty will have to reflect this. Consequently, readers should not expect this chapter to present a ‘one size fits all’ policy prescription. Second, in-work poverty cannot be seen as a separate issue from the wider causes of poverty and low income in any given society. Indeed, the two are essentially inseparable. Policies intended to combat in-work poverty will inevitably be part and parcel of more general anti-poverty policies. Third, a decision as to what policy action – or set of policy actions – is most appropriate cannot be seen as independent from normative notions that underlie the various ways that in-work poverty can be construed. In-work poverty in Europe is concentrated to a considerable extent among dual-adult households with only one working adult – that is, traditional single-breadwinner households. Whether this is construed as a problem of insufficient breadwinner earnings or as a problem of partner non-participation makes a fundamental difference as to what type of policy action is to be favoured. Broadly speaking, policies can...

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