Chapter 10: Bringing human dignity back to life: the case of austerity measures in a comparative perspective
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This chapter aims at analysing in comparative perspective the use and the role of human dignity within the euro-crisis case law in three countries: Italy, Portugal and Greece. These countries share the same strong commitment to the protection of social rights - health, education, social assistance - enshrined explicitly in the constitutional texts which give effect to such rights. They also share a similar human dignity-oriented form of state (embedded in the formula of the social-state principle), especially in the specific connotation of "social dignity". Austerity measures and, especially in the cases of Greece and Portugal, bail-out conditions severely impinged on a wide range of social rights, with cuts in public expenditure for health care, education, housing, social assistance, unemployment benefits and reductions in pensions and wages. In this context one may ask whether human dignity played a role in rights adjudication and in assessing the legitimacy of the austerity measures adopted in times of emergency. Could human dignity help bring substance to protect social rights in times of economic crisis, when social rights are most threatened because of a scarcity of resources? Does human dignity acquire a more defined meaning and content when it comes to social justice or does it prove to be a vague and even a useless concept?

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