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Ruud Muffels: Establish coordinating ministry of inequality (including poverty reduction)

Published: 04th July 2022 Last updated: 04th July 2022

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The Dutch have been satisfied with their well-being for years: they give the Netherlands a 7.5 to 8 on a scale of 0 to 10. On average, our country is also doing well in terms of work and prosperity. But that does not apply to everyone, the inequality in work, welfare and well-being has increased and is not decreasing partly due to the lack of policy. In his farewell speech on 8 July, Prof. Ruud Muffels argued for a coordinating ministry for inequality (including poverty reduction) so that for every policy measure in the socio-economic field, the consequences for social inequality and poverty would be mapped out.

Internationally, the Netherlands is doing very well on many fronts, but it is dropping behind in all three areas. For work, the flexibilization of labor has increased in recent years. This has led to a growing division in the labor market with few opportunities for sustainable and meaningful work for certain groups (see Borstlap Committee). As far as prosperity is concerned, too much attention is paid to purchasing power calculations and too little to the quality of life (broad prosperity). And when it comes to well-being, people in disadvantaged situations or poor health, who are much less satisfied with life precisely because they have little freedom of choice, are left without guidance and help.

Situations of disadvantage

External shocks such as the recent economic crisis and the pandemic have reinforced social inequality. Our institutions are also inadequately equipped to guarantee income security and job security, especially in times of crisis. Income, education, upbringing and (mental) health partly determine the level and differences in well-being between people and groups. This affects people in disadvantaged situations such as the disabled and people on welfare for whom a low income often goes hand in hand with social and (mental) health problems. Many people nevertheless manage well, are self-reliant and need little support. Others, on the other hand, benefit from positive attention and extra guidance and coaching. Muffels therefore argues for a different approach in the implementation of social security based on trust, positive attention and customization. 

The approach to inequality in the broad sense requires a much more active policy. Insufficient thought is now given to the consequences of policy measures for inequality, such as the energy allowance and the increase in the state pension. Mapping out the consequences of proposed policy for inequality in advance could offer a solution. This will not only yield positive social but also economic results.

Ruud Muffels (1954) is professor of labor market and social security at Tranzo, the scientific center for care and welfare of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (TSB). He studied economics at the Katholieke Universiteit Brabant from 1971 to 1978. After working for ten years at the IVA, Institute for Social Science Research, he transferred to the Department of Social Security Science in 1990 and received his PhD here in 1993. In April 1993 he was appointed extraordinary professor of Elderly Policy. In 2003 he became Professor of Labour Market and Social Security at the Department of Sociology. This was followed in 2009 by his appointment to the research institute ReflecT, Research Centre for Flexicurity, Labor Market Dynamics and Social Cohesion, at the Faculty of Law. Between 2015 and 2018 he was its director until 2018 when he moved to Tranzo and the Department of Sociology, both affiliated with the social faculty. 

Contact
Prof. Dr. Ruud Muffels will deliver his speech "Work, Prosperity, Wellbeing" on July 8 at 16:15 in the university's auditorium with livestream. For more information please contact persvoorlichters@tilburguniversity.edu and 013 4668998.