On Wednesday 12 December, the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) welcomed a number of academic experts to the University of Bath for a workshop on the political economy of the welfare state and comparative social policy.

The one-day workshop featured a line-up of speakers including academics from the University of Bath, University of Oxford, University of Konstanz, and King’s College London, as well as postgraduate researchers from the IPR.

IPR Director Professor Nick Pearce was first to take to the stage, welcoming delegates and introducing the key themes and objectives of the day. The first session, chaired by the IPR’s Dr Luke Martinelli, was then underway, on the theme of ‘The Political Implications of Labour Market Inequality’. The session featured presentations from Professor Jane Gingrich (University of Oxford) on electoral shifts and compensation; Dr Tim Vlandas (University of Oxford) on labour market polarisation and redistribution preferences in Western Europe; Dr Margarita Gelepithis (University of Warwick) on education and attitudes towards redistribution; and Professor Hugh Lauder (University of Bath), whose paper called into question the assumptions underpinning the ‘skill-biased technological change’ research programme.

Following a short break, Professor Nick Pearce chaired the second session of the day, on the theme of ‘The Digital Revolution’. Professor Marius Busemeyer (University of Konstanz) first took to the stage for his presentation, which considered how labour market change is shaping workers’ preferences for compensatory and social investment-type welfare policies. This was followed by Joe Chrisp (IPR), who presented empirical work on whether the threat of automation could drive support for basic income, and Dr Nikolas Schoell (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) with research on the political consequences of digitisation using UK panel data.

After lunch, the third and final session of the day began, focusing on 'Policy Trajectories: Social investment, activation, and skills'. Chaired by Joe Chrisp, IPR’s Joan Abbas began proceedings with a presentation on the evolution of in work benefits and related measures in comparative perspective. This was followed by Dr Niccolo Durazzi (University of Edinburgh) on the economic demand for social investment; and Dr David Hope (King’s College London) on the transition to the knowledge economy, labour market institutions, and income inequality. Dr Luke Martinelli finished off the day’s activities with a presentation looking at the conceptual and theoretical links between universal basic income and the social investment paradigm.

The day was met with high praise and demonstrated an exciting array of forthcoming research around the connected themes of welfare policy trajectories and labour market change. On the events of the day, Dr Luke Martinelli adds:

The workshop was a great success, showcasing some really exciting and innovative research and contributing important insights to debates around ongoing and upcoming labour market issues, resulting political dynamics, and possible public policy responses. It is testament to the IPR’s strengths in this area that we are able to attract such a high calibre of participants and position ourselves as an important institute in this intellectual space.

This workshop was part of the IPR research project, ‘Assessing the case for basic income in light of automation and labour market change: A comparative European perspective’.