Research within the Centre is organised around eleven research areas of which nine are content-related and two are methodological.




Employment & Labour market issues


The central research question in this area of study is how socially effective income protection can be reconciled with efficient employment policy. Research examples are for instance analyses of the functioning of unemployment insurance schemes in terms of income protection and poverty prevention, re-entry and legitimacy or studies into the consequences of changes in the labour market, e.g. the demand shift away from low-skilled labour, for minimum income protection and poverty. In addition, previous research has been carried out into the impact of benefit suspension and other sanctions in unemployment insurance schemes on poverty and re-entry rates; the impact of reductions in social contributions; the Dutch “Polder Model”, the unemployment trap and the effects of tax credits, transitional labour markets, career mobility, and the impact of career break schemes as employment, end-of-career and care strategies.



Poverty & Income distribution


The issues of poverty and income inequality have always belonged to the core area of research of CSB. On the basis of large-scale surveys of households, CSB makes estimates of the scope of poverty and the degree of income inequality and identifies groups at risk of poverty. The centre also studies the extent to which social security prevents or resolves poverty and reduces income inequality, and for which groups of people. Thanks to a sustained research effort since 1976, CSB is able to analyse and interpret long-term trends. Moreover, since 1985, this research has been internationalised. CSB has also contributed to the development of a research methodology in this field, specifically in relation to subjective poverty measurement. Besides broad-based research, CSB also conducts in-depth research into the circumstances and problems of the least well-off.



Social Security & Taxation


Social security in the broad sense (i.e. social protection and prevention) runs as a thread through the research activities of CSB. However, the centre also focuses on social security in a narrower sense: the system of income protection against social risks such as unemployment, disability, sickness and old age. Specific attention is paid to the actual functioning of such systems in Belgium and other countries, to reforms and adjustments to systems under changing socio- economic and demographic circumstances, and to systems’ social effectiveness in terms of minimum income guarantee and acquired standard of living. Divergent social security regimes (i.e. the Bismarckian, the Beveridgean and the demogrant systems) are compared with each other, particularly in terms of their capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. The methodological approach combines simulation models (standard and empirical), empirical analysis of social and economic data at individual and at household level, and analysis of policy discourse.



Population Ageing


The ageing population is a research theme that has been taken up more recently in the research agenda of the Centre for Social Policy. For a few years now the Centre strives to develop a deepening and broadening of its research on the issue as well as to develop and refine research instruments and methods that would allow to analyse data on the ageing population in a dynamic perspective. Additionally, the Centre searches for possibilities to test policy alternatives on economic and social adequacy criteria. The Centre’s expertise in this field has been supported by its coordinating role in the development of a strong interdisciplinary knowledge platform around the ageing population (COVIVE - 2009), as well as by its contribution to the SHARE database and network.



Family & Care


The research domain “Family and Care” is part of a long tradition within the Centre. Issues covered pertain to the changing position of families in society and assesses the current social security system in light of these changes. More concretely, research focuses on single parenthood and income security; gender balance in recomposed families and care stress of dual earners.





Research on migration has relatively recently been added to the Centre’s research agenda. Belgium and other Western European countries face a strong migration surplus. Moreover, the size and nature of immigration has also changed considerably. Some consider migration as a threat to the welfare state, while others consider it to be a “miracle cure” to address the pressures of an ageing population and to ensure the financial sustainability of social security. The migration picture is more complex than these two points of view, however. The interactions between migration and the welfare state are multifaceted and are addressed in the research projects of this domain.


European Social Policy


Whereas research into social policy in the past could be restricted to national policy (whereby international comparisons were merely intended to provide information for the purpose of national policymaking), it is now has become apparent that the European and global dimensions of social redistribution have become more important. This is due in part to the fact that the international policy level is gaining direct or indirect influence on national policymaking, and in part to the fact that income distribution is increasingly a matter of growing mobility of companies and persons (migration). CSB is currently concentrating primarily on the European dimension of social policy. Taking as a starting point the principle of social subsidiarity in a common market, the Centre examines the sustainability of national systems of social redistribution. The focus is on the functioning and the effectiveness of the Open Method of Coordination – current practice in European social policy. The social indicators which provide a basis for the OMC (and to whose development CSB made a substantial contribution) are monitored and analysed in relation to the observed social situation in the enlarged European Union of 25+ Member States.




The Centre’s research on health care covers a wide range of research themes and analytical methods. The research projects are mainly empirical in nature and are meant to supply information for the support of policy decisions. A first part of this domain’s research concerns issues of distribution. It supplies Belgian material regarding equity in health and in the consumption and funding of medical care. A second important theme concerns economic evaluation. An example is the computation of costs and effects of alternative treatment possibilities (for specific diseases). This research aims to help realise a better allocation of the available resources. The projects’ policy impact increases over time as methods of analysis become more refined and make use of better data. They are carried out through a multidisciplinary cooperation with medical doctors.





Data & Indicators


The focus in this area is on :

i) the formation, the treatment and the interpretation of large scale data sets (international surveys such as ECHP, SILC, SHARE, LIS and administrative data such as the Belgian Crossroads Bank for Social Security or the Data-warehouse),

ii) the development of adequate instruments for the measurement of poverty , inequality and adequacy of social policies;

iii) the development and interpretation of social indicators which capture key social trends in a clear, concise and valid way.



Simulation Models


During the past two decades the Centre has seriously invested in the development of simulation models at the microlevel as a tool for policy analysis. At the one hand, the Centre has its own standard simulation model (STASIM) which allows the calculation of gross-net trajectories of household incomes (taking into account labour market incomes, taxes, benefits, etc.) for a number of hypothetical family types. On the other hand, the Centre developed an empirical microsimulation model (MISIM) which uses survey-data (and is therefore representative for a given socio-economic reality) to gain insight into consequences of (proposed) policy changes. As a result a result of the latter, the CSP plays also a prominent role in the development of the European Micro-simulation Model EUROMOD. The application of the simulation technique has resulted in various relevant national and international policy evaluations and influential publications.

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