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Implementing Activation Policies

An Analysis of Social and Labour Market Policy Reforms in Continental Europe with a Focus on Local Case Studies in France and Germany

Sebastian Künzel

Continental Europe’s welfare states have recently initiated a shift from passive policies towards goals of an activation of the unemployed. Their aim is to organise more individualised approaches and to provide targeted job placement, active labour market policy and social services. Analysing these reforms, this book illustrates that a successful implementation of activation policies is highly contingent on their local organisation. This finding is reinforced by a series of case studies in France and Germany revealing large differences in the local application of the reforms. Consequently, the question of reliable multilevel governance solutions becomes a key issue. In view of this challenge, the book compares different approaches practiced to govern activation policies in Continental Europe.
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3 Activation reforms in Bismarckian-type continental welfare systems

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3.  Activation reforms in Bismarckian-type continental welfare systems

The aim of this chapter is to understand changing patterns of social and labour market policy reactions in view of the increasing claims on residual minimum income programmes in Bismarckian countries. As explained in the previous chapter, minimum income schemes in Bismarckian countries were originally connected to classical poverty policy and social work. New approaches for welfare and employment are put forward by the European Commission’s strategies for sustainable social protection systems as well as inclusion and labour market participation of society’s weaker and vulnerable groups who have increasingly become dependent on minimum income schemes in Bismarckian welfare states. The EU2020 strategy and the Lisbon agenda as well as the European Employment Strategy (EES) and the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC) in the field of Social Inclusion and Social Protection (Heidenreich 2009; Zirra 2010a) have also evolved in continental welfare states as references for reforming distressed mechanisms of inclusion, social protection and employment.

As a reaction to welfare state transformations, these European strategies propose employment as key to welfare state reform (European Council 2000). Inspired by European strategies for Employment and Social Inclusion (Visser 2009), activation into employment becomes a central feature of welfare state remodelling. The activation concept suggests integration into the labour market as best remedy against risks of exclusion and poverty (van Berkel and Valkenburg 2007: 8). Notably for weaker and more vulnerable groups, which were in Bismarckian welfare states usually excluded from employment, the...

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