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Project goals and measures of success

The principal scientific objective of this proposal is to create a conceptually clear, validated and easily operationalized socio-economic classification for use in comparative European analyses of key policy and scientific issues of direct relevance to the evolving knowledge based society. Currently, comparative European research is hampered by the absence of a measure of social structure and social position. The creation of a European Socio-economic Classification (ESeC) will fill this void in the European Statistical System and thus will stimulate comparative and interdisciplinary research across current and future European member states. By facilitating the analysis of key Europe-wide data resources, it will allow researchers to address the gap in our understanding between the prevalence and distribution of quality of life issues such as educational and health inequalities on the one hand and broader social and economic inequalities on the other. That is, an ESeC will provide a fundamental and essential tool which will facilitate our understanding of the knowledge based society, its consequences for social cohesion and in particular key issues relating to old and new social and economic inequalities. Thereby it will make a vital contribution both to the understanding of societal problems in Europe and therefore to the creation of a European Research Area in the social sciences by dramatically improving the quality and utility of pan-European official statistics.

The project is of direct relevance to Research Areas 1 and 2 in Priority 7 of the Sixth Framework Programme in that it seeks to improve (a) the generation and distribution of knowledge and its impact on economic and social development; and (b) understanding of intergenerational and other inequalities, for example in education and health.

In the pursuit of our principal objective we shall also make an important contribution to an understanding of the state-of-the-art in the use of SECs in comparative research. This will be achieved through the models provided by construct validation studies of ESeC as well as through both a conference and a workshop. The conference in work package 12 will involve representatives from both Eurostat and all member state National Statistical Institutes (NSIs). The workshop for work package 14 will bring together NSIs from new EU member states. These work packages will thus serve to extend the scope of the project beyond the seven member states in the consortium to involve all the other member states of the EU. Simultaneously, we expect these work packages will demonstrate the value of ESeC as a tool for strengthening the scientific knowledge base for EU social and employment policies.

The ultimate measure of the success of the project would be for Eurostat and EU NSIs to adopt ESeC as a comparative measure of social position. Equally we would expect member states which do not have their own SECs to adopt ESeC for national statistical purposes. For any of this to happen, the success of the project depends upon the production of a fully validated ESeC, i.e a measure which both captures the underlying conceptual dimension of employment relations and proves useful in the comparative analysis of societal problems across Europe. There are seven basic steps to this end, as discussed in the next section.