Skills, Stakes, and Clout: Early Human Capital Foundations for European Welfare Futures

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I ask why and how early human capital investment may boost the future foundations of European welfare states. Regarding the material circumstances of young adults and very young children, and educational outcomes such as PISA results in mathematics, reading, writing and problem solving, the years since the 2008-2009 crisis have seen the emergence of a new ‘North-East to core’ good gradient in Europe from Finland over Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia to France. Outside of this gradient, the new periphery now includes the UK and Ireland, all of Southern Europe, and Eastern but no longer Central Europe. Reviewing decade-long evidence on subsidized, high-quality early childhood education pilot programs, I argue that such programs are a tested tool for marrying economic efficiency with social justice (equality of opportunity). I conclude by reflecting on which human skills are likely to be valued in the Second Machine Age. And I recommend policies, including new schemes to compensate for the way in which Europe's existing core-periphery divide is being (self-)perpetuated through periphery-to-core brain drain of highly skilled young Europeans.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Future of Welfare in a Global Europe
EditorsBernd Marin
Publication date2015
ISBN (Print)978-1-4724-6308-1
ISBN (Electronic)9781472463098
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • early childhood, young Europeans, Second Machine Age, generations, human capital, PISA results, social investment, welfare futures

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