Best Paper Prize

In 2011 FISS introduced the Best Paper Prize competition. In collaboration with Policy Press, the prize is awarded to the best, previously unpublished paper presented at each year’s FISS conference. The winner receives €300 and the paper is published in the Journal of Poverty & Social Justice. Selection and publication are subject to a refereeing process. In addition, the prize winner will receive a personal subscription to the Journal for 2 years.

The winning paper is selected by members of the FISS Board of Governors who draw up an initial short-list of papers presented at the conference. The authors of the short-listed papers are asked whether they would like to be considered for the prize, and any potential revisions will be discussed at this stage. A deadline for submitting the papers for consideration will then be set, and the final decision will be made by a committee of FISS Governors. The winning paper will be subject to the Journal’s normal peer review processing prior to publication.

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Previous Prize Winners

  • 2016

Maria Forslund, “The state of dying. Mortality in a comparative perspective – the interplay between cash and care”

There is an extensive body of research on the welfare state, yet the study of health outcomes and their association with social policy is a relatively new topic, particularly in comparative research. Comparative welfare state research has mostly focused on cash benefits, and comparative studies on health and the welfare state mostly consider the organization and function of the health care systems. Thus the interplay between cash and care in areas of sickness and health is in urgent need of more research. The purpose of this paper is to analyze how cash and care combines and produce different health outcomes in affluent countries. Focus is on all cause and cause specific mortality outcomes of health care systems and sickness cash benefits. Is the health impact of health care systems mediated by the organization of sickness cash benefits? By combining OECD health data and SPIN-data on sickness cash benefits I estimate a series of fixed effects structural equations. The results indicate that there is an interplay between cash and care of relevance for mortality outcomes. The mortality reducing effect of health care is stronger in countries where sickness cash benefits are more inclusive and generous. In the paper I discuss a few tentative pathways whereby sickness cash benefits influence performance of health care systems.

  • 2015

Rod Hick, The coupling of disadvantages: Material poverty and multiple deprivation in Europe before and after the crisis”

This paper examines the impact of the Great Recession on material poverty and multiple deprivation in Europe. Employing the Alkire-Foster adjusted headcount measure, we present a multidimensional poverty analysis of twenty-four EU Member States at four time points: 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2013, drawing on data from the EU Survey of Income and Living Conditions. The analysis shows that the pre-crisis period was associated with substantial reductions in multidimensional poverty in Europe, with the largest reductions in the poorest Member States. However, the Southern European countries largely failed to benefit from these pre-crisis poverty reductions and experienced the largest increases in multidimensional poverty in Europe when the crisis hit. These patterns reflect a changing geography of poverty in Europe, increasingly away from the East and towards the South.

  • 2014


In Europe, reference budgets are increasingly recognised as a helpful tool for policy making and monitoring. If developed in a cross-country comparable way, reference budgets could in addition prove to be useful for cross-national learning and contextualising the EU social indicators. However, current reference budgets are not comparable across countries. In this paper we report on the first results of a concerted effort to construct comparable reference budgets for adequate social participation in Antwerp, Athens, Barcelona, Budapest, Helsinki and Milan. We start from a single theoretical and methodological framework and track carefully differences in institutional settings, climate, culture, availability and prices of goods and services that justify cross-country variations in contents and levels of reference budgets. Results indicate that adequate social participation requires access to different goods and services in the six cities, but that at the same time the needs to be fulfilled are rather similar, such that the variation in the level of reference budgets is less than what would be expected on the basis of differences in median household incomes. Results also show that constructing comparable reference budgets requires substantial and intensive coordination. We suggest directions in which our approach could be improved.

Keywords: reference budgets, minimum income, budget standard, social participation, adequacy, comparability

  • 2013

Qin Gao & Johanna Rickne, Firm Ownership and Social Insurance Inequality in China

China’s social insurance scheme has undergone drastic changes during the past 30 years, especially in the urban area. These reforms have focused on shifting the financing burden of the social insurance programs from state-owned and collective enterprises to shared responsibilities among employers, employees, and the state. Benefits enjoyed by urban residents have increased as compared to the pre-reform era. For example, Gao and Riskin (2009) found that the share of social insurance income in total household income for all urban households on average increased from 6% in 1988 to 10% in 1995 and to 14% in 2002.

However, the current social insurance system in urban China is characterized by huge inequality in program participation and benefit generosity, especially across employer ownership sectors. In 2007, 78% of the large and medium size state-owned enterprises participated in pensions or medical insurances as compared to 61% in collective enterprises, 79% in foreign-owned firms, and 55% in private domestic enterprises. Results from a survey conducted among youths taking the national civil servant exam showed that nearly 85% of the study participants believed that working in government institutions was the best occupation choice because of the generous social insurance benefits associated with such jobs (China Youth Daily, 2006).

In this paper, we examine inequality in social insurance participation and benefit generosity across various employer ownership sectors. We first provide a brief description of the recent and dramatic overhaul of the social insurance programs for urban residents. Then we move to analyze a large panel of firm data that include expenditures for the major insurance programs: pensions and medical insurance, unemployment insurance, and the housing accumulation fund. The data are drawn from annual accounting reports collected by the National Bureau of Statistics during 2000-2007. The sample includes all manufacturing firms with state ownership and all other industrial firms with annual sales above the threshold of five million RMB (about $650,000). To tease out the mechanisms whereby ownership can affect social insurance participation and benefit generosity, we also draw upon comprehensive information on other firm characteristics, including firm size, technology level, education level of employees, unionization, profitability, and region.

Descriptive results and baseline estimations show that state-owned firms are most likely to participate in the social insurance programs, foreign-owned and collective firms are less

likely to participate, and the lowest participation rates are found in private domestic firms. We explore three explanations for this pattern. First, whether the institutional proximity to the government among state-controlled firms, and the proximity to the international market in the foreign-owned sector, can explain the higher participation rates found among state-owned, collective, and foreign-owned firms. Second, whether worker characteristics drive firm participation. We hypothesize that firms with high-educated workers are more likely to provide insurance to reduce turnover costs. Third, we examine the role of labor intensity. Labor intensive firms in the private sector often have lower profitability and wages, which decreases the financial margins available for insurance provision. Our preliminary analyses provide supportive evidence to all three explanations.

  • 2012

Wim Van Lancker, Is a child-centred investment strategy bound to fail? Evidence for the EU 27

Under the social investment paradigm, a child-centred investment strategy has been developed. Mainstay of such strategy is the provision of childcare services, which are expected to increase maternal employment rates, further children’s human capital and mitigate social inequalities in early life. In this article, I critically assess the child-centred investment strategy and explore whether childcare services in European countries in their current state of affairs are up to the task of producing the anticipated benefits. The argument I develop is fairly simple: in order to be effective, childcare services 1) should be used at the highest possible level, and 2) the use should be equally distributed among social groups. Drawing on recent EU-SILC data I show that in all but two countries these conditions are not met: childcare is often used at low or moderate levels, and children from low-income families participate to a much lesser extent than children from high-income families. In order to overcome these childcare deficits, countries should pursue a consistent investment strategy which entails increasing childcare supply and increasing employment opportunities for all social groups. This will require huge budgetary efforts which might not be conceivable for most member states.

D. de Vaus, M. Gray, L. Qu and D. Stanton The economic of divorce and implications for the Australian social protection system

One of the major social changes in virtually all, if not all, OECD countries has been an increase in rates of relationship breakdown (divorce) and a rise in single parent families. Relationship breakdown often has negative economic effects and has become an important risk, particularly for women. A key role for social protection systems has thus increasingly become ameliorating some of the negative economic consequences of relationship breakdown.

The economic effects of relationship can be long-lasting with previous work by the authors of this paper having found that these impacts can last into later life. The long-term economic impacts of relationship breakdown and associated increases in the cost of the income support system will become increasingly significant to governments given the structural ageing of the population in OECD countries and the fact that many of those now reaching retirement age have experienced divorce earlier in their lives.

The article extends earlier work using ten waves of the data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey to estimate the short and longer term economic impacts of divorce, re-partnering and the consequences for the social protection system at different stages of the life course. The article also explores both the short and longer-term impacts of relationship breakdown on workforce participation.

  • 2011

A. Sölvi Kristjánsson, Income Redistribution in Iceland : Development and European Comparisons

This article explores income redistribution in Iceland stemming from taxes and transfers, both in terms of its development (1995–2009) and in comparison with European countries (2007). This is done by applying various decomposition analyses, mostly based on the reduction in the Gini coefficient due to taxes and transfers. Our results show that redistribution declined substantially in Iceland between 1995 and 2007; two thirds of the reduction was due to the tax system. The reduction in tax redistribution is explained by a decrease in the personal tax allowance and changed income composition. In a comparison of western European countries in 2007, redistribution stemming from taxes and transfers was lowest in Iceland. This may be explained by low progressivity in the tax system and very low transfer payments, which may to a large extent be explained by high employment rates. In an international comparison, Scandinavian and Continental European countries have the highest levels of redistribution. For the Continental countries, this is to a large extent due to low employment rates, while in the Scandinavian countries it is due to high