Show Less
Restricted access

Activation Policies for the Unemployed, the Right to Work and the Duty to Work


Elise Dermine and Daniel Dumont

Since the 1990s and the 2000s, Western social protection systems have experienced a turn towards activation. This turn consists of the multiplication of measures aimed at bringing those who are unemployed closer to participation in the labour market. These measures often induce a strengthening of the conditions that must be met in order to receive social benefits.
It is in this well known context that the authors gathered in this book decided to take a closer look at the relationship between activation policies for the unemployed and the right and the duty to work. If activation measures are likely to increase transitions towards the labour market, we can also make the assumption that they may, particularly when they are marked with the seal of coercion, hinder or dramatically reduce the right to freely chosen work. In such circumstances, the realisation of the «right to work», which is often stated to be the aim of those who promote activation, tends in practice to be reduced to an increasing pressure being exerted on the unemployed. In this case, isn’t it actually the duty to work that is particularly reinforced?
After an historical and philosophical perspective on the issue, this assumption is confronted with the developments observed in the United States and in France, and then with the guidelines laid down in international human rights instruments. What follows is a discussion of two alternatives to the dominant activation model: the basic income guarantee and the employment guarantee.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Activation Policies for the Unemployed in the United States: Work First




In the European public opinion, the United States is seen first and foremost as the country of “unbridled capitalism”, a country with, as a consequence, very limited social protection policies. In the same vein but from a more academic perspective, i.e. in the field of comparative social policy, the United States is systematically referred to as the most typical example of a so-called “residual” welfare state, that is, a social protection system dominated by basic assistance for the poor and limited universal programmes, which have to be complemented – for those who can afford it – by private insurance.1 In short, the U.S. welfare state is clearly seen as a “laggard” compared to Europe.2 When one analyses American social policies with a European eye, it is indeed quite striking that the U.S. welfare state is, if not minimal, at least quite incomplete by European standards. In relation to the issue at stake in the present book, the key point is this: despite having always been more incomplete and less decommodifying than its European counterparts, the American social protection system, like the systems on this side of the Atlantic, has also been confronted with the phenomenon of pressurisation of the unemployed.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.