This research consists of two central parts. In the first part, I look for possible characteristics of a European social model. Does there exist a set of common features, and if so, how do they relate with the differences? In order to answer that question, a comparison is made between the European social market economies with social market economies elsewhere, with respect to their structure, functioning, and outcomes (in terms of effectiveness). This analysis will be based on socio-economic data at both the micro- and macro-level (LIS, ECHP (EU-SILC), ESSPROS and OECD data), complemented with a meta-study of the vast relevant literature. The empirical data will be analysed from a multidisciplinary focus in line with the social policy analysis tradition: the coherence and diversity of social arrangements (input) will be related with policymaking (throughput) and with the outcomes of social policies in terms of social effectiveness (output).
The research question in the second part of this study is whether the European social model needs to be strengthened, and if so, how that should be established. This analysis will first look at the existing central social instruments, such as the Structural Funds. What are the purpose, size and effectiveness of the current flow of funds? Secondly, the minimum income schemes in the Member States are scrutinized, starting, in particular, from the question what options Europe has at its disposal, both in principle as in political and economic reality, to improve these national minimum income schemes. Finally, using modelling techniques, the impact of different future scenarios are compared. The multidisciplinary framework from the first part will also guide the analysis in the second part.