Everyday Worlds of Welfare: a comparative study of human needs, livelihood sustainability and social policy in Southern Europe

Principal researcher: Patrícia Alves de Matos

Research group: Governance, Policies and Livelihoods


Social well-being | Sustainability | Ethnography | Portugal | Italy

Funding Institution

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia



Start date





The 2008 Great Recession and the implementation of austerity policies accelerated the ongoing transformations of European welfare-states. This project engages with the prominent theme of the nature of emerging austerity welfare regimes in Southern-Europe. Specifically, it aims to problematize the over-reliance on measurement frameworks for defining and evaluating societal and individual well-being; and the growing influence of behavioural approaches in policymaking. This project proposes a comparative bottom-up approach to human welfare calculus and welfare sustainability, focusing on the theoretical relevance of the concept of 'everyday worlds of welfare'. The concept of everyday worlds of welfare encompasses the historically and locally embedded set of practices, normative livelihood ethics and folk valuation arguments informing how households and individuals define and pursue the fulfilment of tangible and intangible needs (i.e. resources and claims) necessary to secure intergenerational livelihood sustainability. Drawing from an interdisciplinary theoretical framework grounded on economic anthropology, sociology and feminist economics, this project will examine how ordinary people experience, produce, negotiate and conceptualize everyday worlds of welfare within and across diverse regulatory scales of welfare provisioning. Fieldwork will be conducted in Portugal and Italy, comparing historically and ethnographically the relationships between households economic reconfigurations, individual livelihood strategies and interactions with mediating (state based or not) institutions of welfare provision. Recently, intending to address the inability of mainstream economics in foreseeing the 2008 Great Recession and the aftermath failings in policy responses, the economists Stiglitz, Fitoussi, and Durand have proposed a 'beyond GDP-Agenda' for defining and measuring well-being focusing on how local factors affect distributive and sustainability patterns; within-household inequalities and people's evaluative experiences of livelihood insecurity, citizenship deprivation and perceptions of inequality. Building upon the 'beyond GDP-Agenda', which has informed the 2030 Agenda adopted by the United Nations in 2015, this project contributes to the promotion of more significant socially inclusive indicators of economic prosperity and well-being by critically assessing the quantitative and behavioural-oriented assumptions concerning needs, social worth, entitlements and rights. It will, thus, strengthen the crucial contribution of anthropological knowledge and qualitative-based evidence in the construction of a more fair, inclusive economic growth and sustainable welfare social policy in the context of the post-pandemic recovery and renewal.