The way the state treats its children is the acid test for its civilization*
- Can the process intergenerational inheritance of poverty be stopped?
- Poverty has always existed in all types of societies, yet when we talk about poverty today we mainly refer to the capitalistic societies because market economy inevitably produces poverty. In a capitalistic society winners are those who are better-off, while those who are not able to meet market requirements – must drop out. The process of intergenerational inheritance of poverty cannot be totally eliminated but it can be reduced. And this is first of all the role of the state policy – educational policy but also welfare and family ones. There are capitalistic societies in the world – for example Nordic ones – in which social inequalities are relatively small and capitalistic societies in which the poverty is relatively large, for example Great Britain or the United States since the latter apply the social policy of little state intervention in social inequalities.
- You have become the coordinator of the PROFIT project to which the European Commission assigned almost a million euro. Scholars from Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Germany, Italy and Great Britain will also participate in it. What are your expectations as to the results of the investigations?
- The project tackles the problems of poverty inheritance and social inequalities. The European Union has recognised reproduction of social inequalities as a threat to implementation of the basic social values, which in consequence could prevent the achievement of the Lisbon Strategy objectives. Yet, neither citizens nor politicians, nor even scholars, fully realise the fact that poverty is an inter-generational problem that can threaten social order and the achievement of economic targets. In fact, there is a general optimistic belief in the social equality in the European Union - greater in some countries and weaker in other. But admitting that we in fact have to do with inequalities and, what is more, with their inheritance is not popular... In the frameworks of the project we will seek the examples of good practice in limiting the results of poverty applied in local communities. We wish to exchange experiences on how local communities cope first of all with supporting education of children from deprived environments. If we manage to identify that some practices work better than the other then we will attempt to popularise them. This might contribute to the reduction of intergenerational transmission of inequalities. We however have no illusions as the possibility of its entire elimination - the idea is to establish a dialogue so as to encourage practitioners to learn from scholars and conversely and to integrate goodwill environments and people to fight with reproduction of poverty. It would be good to use the results of investigations to work out solutions applicable to social policy realised by the European Union memeber states.
- PROFIT project will last for three years. What will the research look like?
- We begin with the interviews with the representatives of political elites because we believe that poverty – as I already mentioned –is a political issue first of all. We will ask politicians who participate in making the law if they realize the existence of intergenerational poverty inheritance. And if so, what mechanisms, in their opinion, could stop this process or at least reduce it. The second stage will involve the analysis of social policy programmes which are implemented in individual countries – first of all in the educational system because inequalities are generated in the process of education. We know already that for example in Bulgaria some children do not go to school at all, although primary education is free and obligatory, because of a lack of transportation for children to get to schools. We will look for factors in the free educational system which produce social inequalities. This also concerns barriers on the labour market or the social protection. At the same time we will investigate compensatory programmes. In Poland an example of such a programme is provision of free meals for children or state-funded scholarships. That stage will be carried out on the level of local communities. In Poland we selected Zgierz for research. We know already that it is important to co-ordinate actions of all the institutions and social services which can contribute to a decrease of inequalities. In the third stage we will conduct investigations among young people, mainly unemployed. This way we want to see in which moments of life course intervention should be started to increase young people's opportunities on the labour market. In the end we will compare the results of investigations and exchange the examples of good practice.
*Exerpt form the interview with prof. Wielis?awa Warzywoda-Kruszynska, Head of the Institute of Sociology at the University of Lodz, conducted???ó by K. Matusewicz; full Polish version published available at the site of the Lodz Voivodship Office