Social Investment in the South of Italy: the case of the Apulia Region
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The Apulian welfare system shares all of the general traits of the Mediterranean welfare regime and is facing the same important transformation processes that impact individuals, families, and services worldwide: aging population, increased social and health care demand, youth unemployment, work-life balance needs, and economic crisis, among others. As a consequence, social distances between rich and poor and the territorial divide between north and south are increasing. In an effort to cope with these «new» social risks, in recent years the Apulia region has implemented a number of activation, work-life balance and enhancement measures aimed at introducing innovations in social policies. From a social perspective these measures should not only be treated as spending but also as investments that will yield significant returns in the future. The paper focuses on three specific measures developed at the regional level in the following areas: social and health policies (Care allowance «Assegno di cura»), work-life balance policies (Work-life balance voucher «Buono servizio di conciliazione») and youth policies (Active ingredients «Principi attivi»). In the first part we analyse the key elements of each measure; in the second part we compare them in order to highlight the main outputs, outcomes, strengths and weaknesses; then we examine the policy change action in process and we discuss the potential of such social investment measures in the remainder of southern Italy.