New project on “working, yet poor” people receive big grant from Horizon2020

Published: 2020-02-27

They work, but earn wages that leave them on the verge on the poverty line. The emerging “working yet poor” workers are now to be researched in seven European countries. The project as a whole receives 3.25 million euros in funding from the EU Horizon 2020 grant institute. Of this, 300.000 euros goes to the Swedish part of the project, led by Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni from Lund University School of Economics and Management.

From the left: Commuting workers (Istock Photo) and Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni, Associate Professor of Business Law.

There is an increasing social trend of working people at risk or below the poverty line, according to the new project Working and Yet Poor (WorkYP). The researchers across Europe will explore the reasons for such phenomenon and elaborate recommendations to the EU and legislators, in order to enhance the goals proclaimed in the European Pillar of Social Rights. 

The project will analyse seven representative countries (Sweden, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Poland), selected on the basis of their geographical area, as well as their different social systems and legal orders.

“A vulnerability that needs to be addressed”

Sweden has a quite low rate of people in-work, while at-risk-of-poverty (7.0%), especially if compared to some of the other participating countries (Luxembourg 13.5%, Germany 9.1%, Italy 12.2%, Poland 9.7%), nonetheless there are sectors and workers in Sweden who have been facing these problems. Lund University School of Economics and Management researchers lead the Swedish part of the study and will investigate the Swedish system in its legislative, policy and socio-economic aspects.

Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni, associate professor of Labour Law, is the coordinator of the multidisciplinary unit in Lund, which also consist of Anna Missiaia, senior lecturer of Economic History, and from 1 April Ann-Christine Hartzén, postdoctoral researcher in Business Law with full focus on research on the working poor in Sweden.

“It is important to do research on people that are working, but yet are poor, because this would shed a light on such workers who might disappear from statistics on social exclusion, such as those on unemployment. Indeed, they represent a social vulnerability that needs to be addressed by law and policymakers. In-work poverty may be the results of different types of problems, for instance, issues related to the labour market, the welfare state or the education system. Investigating it will help in understanding the pitfalls and, as a consequence, limit – or hopefully fix­ – the problems,” Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni says.

Is this something new – for Sweden or Europe – people working, yet poor? Or is it perhaps something that has returned?

“To some extent, working poor represent a new issue, at least in Europe after WWII, when having a job has usually meant the key to access a free and decent life for the workers and their families,” Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni says.

The project started in February 2020 and will continue until January 2023.

Read more about the project on

Read more about the project on



Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni

Associate Professor of Business Law

Telephone: +45 93 52 21 81

Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni's research

Anna Missiaia's research

Ann-Christine Hartzén's research

More information

The project WorkYP – Working Yet Poor is led by professor Luca Ratti from Luxembourg University. In total, the project has been granted 3.25 million euros (SEK 34.40 million) from the European Commission in the frame of the Horizon 2020 Program.

Vincenzo Pietrogiovanni of Lund University School of Economics and Management has been allocated 296.185 euros (SEK 3.13 million).

The project consortium is made of eleven partners:

  • University of Luxembourg
  • Lund University
  • University of Bologna
  • Goethe University of Frankfurt
  • KU Leuven
  • Tilburg University
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • University of Gdansk
  • OSE Observatoire Social Européenne
  • FGB Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini
  • EAPN European Anti-Poverty Network (+ four linked third parties).

The project is centred on the idea of VUP: in contrast to VIP (very important people), the project minted the VUP acronym, which stands for Vulnerable and Under-represented Persons.

The researchers have identified four clusters of particularly VUPs, whose disadvantaged conditions obstruct full enjoyment of EU citizenship:

  • Low-wage workers
  • Solo self-employed
  • Flexible work contracts (fixed-term, agency work, involuntary part-time)
  • Casual/zero-hours/gig-economy workers.

Each local (national) unit is composed of experts in labour law, social security, industrial relations, economics, sociology, social rights and poverty in general. One of the main features of the project is that such expertise is combined in the understanding of in-work poverty and in the elaboration of policy proposals.

The overall message is that income inequality affects economic stability and social cohesion. The rise of in-work poverty is one of the elements to take into account when addressing income inequality. Being at-risk of in-work poverty means risking not enjoying a decent life: this undermines the concept of citizenship.

The EU Pillar of Social Rights – proclaimed in November 2017 – addresses those issues by granting all workers “fair and adequate wages” as well as “adequate protection for all kinds of employment”.

Interview with Luca Ratti, coordinator of the “Working yet poor” project