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A dignified existence in social security. UG receives grant for research on strengthening the role of the fundamental right of subsistence security

11 September 2023
Prof. Dr Gijsbert Vonk

Gijsbert Vonk, professor of social security law at our Faculty and part-time professor of fundamental social rights at Maastricht University, has been awarded a research grant worth more than 500,000 euros by the board of Instituut GAK. The grant was awarded for research into a dignified existence in social security by strengthening the role of fundamental social rights.

Moving thinking on the fundamental right of subsistence security

How can the functioning of fundamental social rights in the Netherlands be strengthened with a view to better protecting individual citizens? This is the core question of the study that focuses primarily on the fundamental right of subsistence security. The question is in line with the search for the human dimension in social security in response to the benefits affair. To what fundamental legal values can thinking about the human measure be traced and how can the judge test against those values? How do judges do this in other European countries and do they avoid getting in the way of the legislator? Scientific legal research attempts to find answers to these questions. In addition, the research contributes to the social dialogue on the operation of the fundamental right to security of existence. This dialogue also addresses the question of how more account can be taken of this fundamental right in policy and implementation.

Research activities

The grant awarded by Institute GAK is largely meant for a PhD position and a postdoctoral researcher. The PhD student will study the German legal doctrine on the "Existenzminimum" as developed by the German constitutional courts. What starting points does this doctrine offer for strengthening the human dimension? The post-doctoral research addresses the question of how judges in other European countries deal with the fundamental right of subsistence. Does justice there lead to better legal protection for citizens? In addition, there is financial scope for organizing social dialogue activities aimed at drawing attention to the importance of the fundamental right of subsistence security.


The grant was awarded to the Faculty of Law at the University of Groningen, where Vonk holds a chair financially supported by the Gak Institute. This institute is a wealth fund in the fields of social security and labor market policy in the Netherlands. The project is carried out in collaboration with Maastricht University. Co-founder is Prof. Dr Saskia Klosse, professor of social law at Maastricht University.

For information and questions, you can contact Gijsbert Vonk via or 06-23345466.

This article was published by the Faculty of Law.

Last modified:02 January 2024 12.34 p.m.
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