At the heart of the social investment paradigm, in more normative terms, lies a reorientation in social citizenship, away from freedom from want towards freedom to act, prioritizing high levels of employment for both men and women as the key policy objective, while combining elements of flexibility and security, under the proviso of work-family reconciliation arrangement and a guaranteed adequate social minimum serving citizens to pursue fuller and more satisfying lives. Rather than stressing the promotion of (incomes) equality as a basis for social justice, normative claims behind social investment stress the basic needs and capabilities for self-development and social participation, which serve to break the intergenerational cycles of poverty, encouraging children's school success, and positive labour marker transitions and a better work-life balance. Social investment continues to be based on social rights of citizenship, consistent with Beveridge and Marshall's original defence of modern social policy (Pierson and Leimgruber, 2010; Stephens, 2010; White, 2010). But there is a clear shift in emphasis and policy direction from passive social insurance to more active social servicing. New social risk management should no longer merely follow the post-war social logic of 'decommodification', i.e. reducing people's dependence on labour market participation. The new welfare state must focus on improving the quality of life of workers and families by strengthening ex ante their long-term human capital and employability. In order to connect social policy more fully with a more dynamic economy and society, citizens have to be endowed with capabilities, through active servicing, that intervene early in the life cycle rather than later with more expensive passive and reactive policies (Esping-Andersen etal., 2002). Following the principle of empowerment, entitlements and services should enable individuals to act as autonomous agents to allow multiple choices between different employment statuses according to shifting preferences and circumstances during the most critical transitions over the life course. The quid pro quo for capacitating welfare servicing is based on a norm of 'capacitating conditionality', stipulating that public authorities cannot ask effort of welfare clients if they cannot support them by delivering appropriate services. On the other hand, public support in terms of income transfers and social services can be made conditional on effort and obligations to seek work and participate in training programmes. While equality and compensation remain key value orientations, a more demanding understanding of these values is emerging, suggesting the need to enrich the ideas of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin with Amartya Sen's (1997, 2001) capability perspective. For Economic Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, material equality is at best a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a fair distribution of life chances (1997, 2001). Sen defines wellbeing in terms of people's capabilities, including important elements of choice and freedom.
According to Martha Nussbaum (2011), public policy should accordingly be judged as to how governments undergird the concrete capabilities of citizens of enabling 'functionings', such as access to good education and good public transport from home to the workplace. In essence, Sen's and Nussbaum's 'capability approach' is concerned with how well policy measures support an institutional environment that encourages 'human flourishing'. In this respect, access to high-quality education plays a key role in an individual's capability to adapt to changing labour market conditions. Good health and high levels of educational attainment are probably generally positively correlated to strong income equality. Sen's and Nussbaum's normative approach is one of human development, through the expansion of substantive freedoms and rights to basic capabilities, through which people can freely and autonomously transform resources and income into the kind of life they wish to live, rather than to compensate for social exclusion through income-replacing benefits. Creating capabilities is about establishing reliable opportunities for all people to improve the quality of life. Following Martha Nussbaum, public policy must not simply give people a capability, but supply capabilities, such as health and education, in such a way that they can rely on them for the future (Nussbaum, 2011: 19). The effectiveness of public policy, focused on capabilities, is an empirical question that is likely to vary with time and place and the complexities of particular social problems for different disadvantaged groups (2011:145). What is decisive is the ability of all individuals to convert the resources available to them into a flexible endowment of capabilities that, despite being unevenly distributed, enable them to realize their own life plans.
Work-family reconciliation policies are a case in point (Bothfeld, Hubers, and Rouault, 2010; Bothfeld and Betzelt, 2011; Morgan, 2012). The objective of reconciling work and family life addresses the autonomy of parents as workers and family members, and, as an intermediary, also the role of employers. Reconciliation can be implemented in a way that either provides a high degree of autonomy in terms of freedom of choice, or limits in terms of availability, price, and quality in the supply of childcare services. In turn, the quality of standards and working conditions of care workers is an important determinant for the cognitive development of children. By the same token, reconciliation strategies also depend on labour market regulation, including access to parental leave. People's capabilities depend to large extent on the quality of supporting institutions and resources, often obtained from their work and social environment, which allow them to realize meaningful ambitions.