Neoliberal Governance and Public Services in the EU: Are Disadvantaged Socio-Economic Groups Being Left behind?
We argue that this change coincides with the consolidation of a neoliberal mode of governance at the EU level, whereby policy is guided by the “moral imperative linked to competition” (Amable, 2011): in consequence, citizens are no longer considered as citizens, with collective rights and social protection, but as consumers that require protection against enterprises and also against government. Collective rights to social protection and redistribution are substituted for a reciprocity contract between the individual and the society and posing competitiveness at the centre of social life.
After showing this, we demonstrate empirically the consequences of this policy shift for specific socio-economic groups through analysis of the EU-commissioned surveys implemented to evaluate these liberalized markets. Over time, these surveys on liberalized markets have changed as regards the profile of the respondents, the questions asked, the services included and the methodology. Not only does this reflect the shift to neoliberal governance, it also has important consequences for disadvantaged socio-economic groups.
Initially, the surveys included all citizens as respondents, asked on their satisfaction with liberalized services. Soon afterwards, respondents were disaggregated by socio-economic category and by being a consumer or non-consumer. Results showed that potentially disadvantaged socio-economic citizens were associated with lower satisfaction. Next, the surveys were transformed into Consumer Market Scoreboards from 2010. Non-consumers were excluded from the analysis of results. As an upshot the extent to which socio-economic difference impacted on satisfaction was significantly underestimated. We demonstrate empirically how the Commission's result of greater satisfaction was not a result of improved policy reform, rather, it was achieved by excluding the excluded.