Wednesday May 11th, 2022 ARCO LAB

ESRI European Social Rights Indicator a composite indicator to monitor social rights across Europe

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The European Social Rights Indictor, ESRI, has been developed by ARCO researchers in the framework of the the Horizon 2020 project EUROSHIP – Closing gaps in social citizenship.  The elaboration of the ESRI is part of a wider stream of work on social indicators based on the cooperation between TARKI Social Research Institute and the University of Florence, in particular of Prof. Mario Biggeri, Federico Ciani, Lucia Ferrone and Maria Nannini. As it is presented in the project Working Paper n°13 “Alternative approaches to the study of poverty and social exclusion in Europe”, the ESRI is a composite indicator that aims to allow better assessment of the heterogeneity of achievements in the different dimensions of social citizenship. Its potentialities have been discussed during the EUROSHIP’s  Social Indicator Workshop held in Brussels.

The European Pillar of Social Rights is relevant for the future of the European Union: the upward social convergence of the EU seems to be a fundamental pre-requisite to build a sustainable, resilient and prosperous future for the EU. The implementation of the EPSR needs to be carefully and effectively monitored in order to analyse the evolution of the level of social rights enjoyment in the EU in real time in order to identify possible problems and provide solid policy responses.

The Social ScoreBoard (SSB) is a valuable and indispensable monitoring tool as it provides a comprehensive standard dashboard of indicators covering all the areas embraced by the realisation of the EPSR. In fact, it is useful both to perform over-time and cross-country comparisons. However, there is space to improve the SSB potential by combining it with the elaboration of a new composite multidimensional indicator – the European Social Rights Indicator (ESRI) that can provide the opportunity of additional relevant analysis.

The composite European Social Rights Indicator has been elaborated by applying the multidimensional synthesis indicator (MSI) procedure proposed by Vincenzo Mauro, Mario Biggeri and Filomena Maggino (2018) applied to the SSB indicators for the EU27 countries, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and the UK.

The MSI approach is used to aggregate multi-dimensional phenomena and rank the performances of countries, households, enterprises and so. Composite indicators must deal with heterogeneity and substitutability as, in principle, different values of the components of composite indicators may lead to the same composite score. The way a composite index deals with substitutability is linked to the method identified to aggregate different dimensions. As an example, arithmetic mean assumes perfect substitutability among dimensions. In the case of MSI, the degree of substitutability between dimensions is defined by a function of the unit’s score. The MSI approach has the property of penalizing heterogeneity in achievements but the higher the level of outcomes the lower is the level of penalization.

Moreover, high heterogeneity combined with low level of performance is heavily penalized: given the instrumental value of most dimensions, this means that a sharp deprivation in a specific dimension might not only cause an overall low performance (intrinsic value), but also negatively affects the overall outcome of the country as well. On the contrary, high heterogeneity combined with a high level of performance may be linked to countries legitimate priorities: the heterogeneity associated with their achievements is more likely to be the result of a subjective choice.

This approach aims at achieving full sensitivity, continuity, flexibility in substitution between dimensions of social citizenship, and a straightforward interpretation of the results. In particular, this approach will allow better assessment of the heterogeneity of achievements in the different dimensions of social citizenship. In other words, the degree of substitutability between dimensions can be directly linked to the overall achievement of social citizenship.

The elaboration of a new composite indicator proved to be an interesting option and led to interesting results. The ESRI allowed to perform over-time and cross-country comparisons according to a single synthetic score. This is particularly interesting to deal with the issue of the (lack of) social upward convergence of the European Union. As an example, the elaboration of the ESRI allowed to identify divergent trajectories of EU countries after the 2008 recession with Southern Europe countries presenting a slowlier and less effective recovery.

Moreover, the preliminary results presented in the paper also show the potentialities of analysing relations between ESRI and other variables such as expenditure variables or other variables linked to different dimensions of human development (income, inequality, sustainability and participation).


EUROSHIP’s Social Indicator Workshop

The ESRI and its potentialities have been presented and discussed during the Social Indicator Workshop organized by the members of the European project EUROSHIP in Brussels on the 28th of April 2022.

The EUROSHIP Horizon 2020 project “Closing gaps in social citizenship: New tools to foster social resilience in Europe” will provide new, gender-sensitive, comparative knowledge about the effectiveness of changing social protections policies targeted at reducing poverty and social exclusion in Europe, to further implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development towards an upward social convergence between Member States.

The final stage of EUROSHIP to develop and implement evidence-based policy recommendations depends crucially on EU social indicators that can be employed to monitor the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (Eurofund, 2019) to enable European citizens to exercise social rights in a more effective way and contribute to a cohesive and resilient Europe. The consortium focused on indicators for poverty and social exclusion.

The aim of this Workshop is therefore to critically review and evaluate the preliminary conclusions and open questions of the EUROSHIP consortium researchers to contribute to the final state of the EUROSHIP project of recommendations and an implementation plan for indicator development and data improvement in Europe.