Topic 6



There is a correlation between public services and the resilience of the economy (see also topic 8). The pandemic has shone a new public light on the goods and services that are essential for well-being and social cohesion, and on the workers who deliver them. While the golden age of essential public services supplied by the state improved life expectancy, well-being and inclusion, more recently we are seeing a failure to maintain fundamental services for reasons such as political neglect, austerity measures, privatisation and the financialisation of the economy. Today we are paying the bill of inadequate services, inequality of access, deterioration in quality of services, system failures and systemic crises. 

The foundational economy puts an emphasis on the infrastructures/systems of everyday life in terms of providential services (health, care, education, social security and pensions) and material services (water and sanitation, housing, energy, transportation, communication, food, local banking, etc.) and other assets that matter for caring families and communities. With this as the focus, the objective must be on “well-being” and “liveability”. It is wrong to assume that these will automatically come about as a simple consequence of economic growth. 

In an economy of interconnected zones, the tradeable (highly) competitive economy is prevailing, to the detriment of other zones such as the provision of basic services (such as haircuts, furniture, holidays), or the foundational and daily essentials and care economy of family and households. 

While well-being depends on foundational essentials every day, the income of households is relevant but does not solve the problem of access to fundamental, universal and highquality services. We are talking here about services that the state should supply, supported by adequate investments because they are the badges of our civilisation. We are talking about material infrastructures and networks that make everyday life possible and secure. Our everyday capital is connecting and enabling people, economic stabilisers and social, cultural and political citizenship.

 Enlarging the concept of public services to a wider concept of foundational economy, we realise that this economic dimension is still important for employment and the quality of jobs as well as for the respect of climate change imperatives. Empowering public services for a new economy means striking a new balance that addresses the well-being of current and future citizens. A more explicit focus on “liveability” and “sustainability” must rebalance competitiveness and profitability. Promoting social infrastructures and collective services must rebalance private consumption. 

Territories are crucial for redesigning the foundational economy in a logic of liveability and sustainability. But localism (see also Topic 3) is not always the best solution. Some services for collective use can be built more efficiently at the centre (communication, education, healthcare systems). Building the future of the foundational economy requires a multi-scalar approach, which also needs coordination and financing on the international scale. 

The foundational economy requires a highly progressive taxation system and an accumulation of income and assets (see also topic 6). The role of intermediate organisations is key. Trade unions have a special role, as they are the largest organisations and can play a role in promoting goods and services. In fact, unions carry out these tasks and try out practices that deal with living conditions and social cohesion. Unions can play a role because they are organised across all levels (local, national and supranational).

The Recovery Plan must promote public investments that reinforce basic services, provide access to collective services and offer citizens a new sense of affiliation to the EU. The impact will be measured by calculating the value that public and collective services and fundamental infrastructures add to the well-being of people and to socio-economic resilience. Households must be able to count on adequate income and on a comprehensive set of services and goods that are fundamental for their daily well-being, including a European child guarantee. A new social and economic governance of the EU must be founded on sustainability and liveability, ensuring resources for fundamental and provisional public services. The state and the institutions of the EU must find a new centrality that provides tangible answers to the needs of people wishing to live a highquality life. Social dialogue and in particular the trade unions are the key, as they reinforce policy transmission at local, national and supranational levels.



Angelo Salento

University of Salento


Born 1971, he has a degree in Law from the University of Bologna and a PhD in Sociology of Law at the University of Milan. He is qualified to practice law. From 2016, Associate professor of Economic sociology and Sociology of work in the University of Salento (qualified for full professorship from 2018). From 2005 to 2016 he han been researcher/assistant professor in Sociology. He teaches Economic sociology and Sociological analysis of development. He is member of the PhD school in Human and Social Sciences, University of Salento. He has taught in several masters and doctoral courses. In 2015/16 he teaches “Economics and Social Innovation” in the ISUFI higher education school, University of Salento. He is member of the editorial boards of the journals “Sociologica”, “PaCo – Partecipazione e conflitto”, “Sociologia del Lavoro”. He has been referee for the journals “Stato e mercato”, “Polis”, “Sociologica”, “Rivista Italiana di Sociologia”, “Studi organizzativi”, “Paradigmi”, “Mondi migranti”. In 2014 he was visiting researcher in the CRESC (Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change), University of Manchester. From 2014 to 2019  delegate of the Rector for the Job Placement. His research involves social theory, the organization of work and enterprises, the relationship between economic change and legal change, the financialisation of the economy, local development, social innovation, and the foundational economy.


Julie Froud

University of Manchester

Professor of Financial Innovation

Julie Froud is a member of the Organisations and Society subject group in the People, Management and Organisations division of MBS.


Philippe Pochet

European Trade Union Institute


Philippe Pochet is General Director of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), Professor at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) and associated researcher at the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work (CRIMT, Montreal). Prior to becoming Director of the ETUI in 2008, he was Director of the Observatoire social européen (OSE) for 16 years. He is interested at and has published extensively books and articles on European social and economic policies, European social dialogue and new forms of governance. He is now working on the issues of impact of climate change and digitalisation on jobs and seeking how to combine the analysis of the big trends. Previously he had other temporary positions, such as invited Professor at the College of Bruges and invited scholar at the Faculté Universitaire Saint-Louis (FUSL), adjunct professor and visiting scholar at Griffith University (Brisbane).

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