It is important to draw critical attention to the broad policy perspectives that travel across the globe and operate at multiple scales. Social Investment is clearly one such set of ideas that has assumed increasing prominence over the last two decades. Like most such rapidly diffusing ideas, however, it admits of quite different interpretations. In this article I examine the most recent iterations of the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs’ (DELSA) interpretation of Social Investment against the backdrop of its earlier work. I argue that its initial formulations could be seen as an example of inclusive liberalism. Since then, however, DELSA has begun to embrace important elements of a social democratic version, including a concern with gender equality.
While the idea of Social Investment may have opened anew a positive role for social policy, it is insufficient for such policies to focus narrowly on improving the human capital of the poor. Rather it is important to develop the human capital of all.
While Social Investment policies can include measures to facilitate work and family life it is also important to actively promote equality of the sexes in paid and unpaid work.
Social Investment policies, with their emphasis on the supply side, need to be complemented by policies to promote good jobs for all.
To be effective, Social Investment policies need to be accompanied by appropriate macroeconomic policies.