What does society owe each of us? And what do we owe in return? Our answer to these inescapable questions – known as the social contract – shapes our politics, economic systems and every stage of life, from raising children and going to school to finding work and growing old. Yet today, many believe that this contract is not working for them.
The social contract has broken down in recent years, driven by factors including changing expectations around gender divides, technological advances, ageing populations and climate change, and it is broken in particular between generations. However, there are many ways to fix it. For example, education systems should invest more in the first 1,000 days and in lifelong learning; flexible labour markets need to provide more unemployment and retraining support, as happens in many Nordic countries.
The social contract should provide a minimum floor, better investment in lifelong opportunity and capability, and better sharing of risk through collective schemes. The current, overly individualistic approach is not only unjust but also inefficient; if we invest more in each other, and expect more back in return, we will increase opportunity, security and efficiency. Today’s multiple crises provide an opportunity to shift our thinking and take action on these longer term issues.
Fairness Foundation event, March 2022
What We Owe Each Other
Our answer to these inescapable questions - known as the social contract - shapes our politics, economic systems and every stage of life, from raising children and going to school to finding work and growing old. Yet today, many believe that this contract is not working for them.
BBC interview, March 2021
BBC World Service - HARDtalk, Baroness Minouche Shafik: What do we owe each other?
Are we capable of putting the common good first in the face of rising inequality, a deepening climate crisis and the impact of the Covidpandemic challenge? The idea of a social contract between the individual and the state is a staple of political philosophy.
Podcast interview, June 2021
What do we owe each other? In conversation with Minouche Shafik
Given how much richer we are today than, say, 50 years ago, it is remarkable how many people think 'the system' is not working for them. Particularly in high income countries, there is a pervasive sense that neither the market nor the state are providing citizens with the security and welfare that they could and should.
Book summary by the author, April 2021
What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract for a Better Society by Minouche Shafik - IMF F&D
We need a new social contract fit for the 21st century Everyone participates in the social contract every day, and we rarely stop to think about it. Yet social contracts shape every aspect of our lives, including how we raise our children and engage in education, what we expect from our employers, and how we experience sickness and old age.