This article examines whether the path to recovery from the corona pandemic and the ensuing social and economic crisis can provide an opportunity for social policy recalibration with a significant redistributive impact. To this aim we draw upon analytical insights from the rich literature on welfare policy change.
Prospective social interventions are examined vis-à-vis policy trajectories in the recent past, and particularly those of the long-drawn austerity era of the bailout. Equally important is the novel crisis-response initiative of the EU, which charts a recovery path towards a green and digital transition, and embraces a «softer» financial assistance conditionality compared to that of the Great Recession. The valorization of the European Pillar of Social Rights as a guide (though non-binding) accompanies this initiative. Nevertheless vagueness and ambiguity around core components of the EU social dimension (for instance, regarding just transition and the relative weight of capacitating and protective elements along the lines of a social investment template) leave much room for different interpretations of the social coordinates of the recovery.
Our analysis highlights how the EU-level recovery-policy framework interlinks, at the domestic level, with the government’s ideologico-political leanings in shaping the social dimension of the country’s Recovery and Resilience Plan. Of significant importance is the pro-market predilection of the party in government, much akin to the neoliberal narrative, which considerably conditions the way the Plan accommodates the concept of just transition and combines social and labour market reforms.