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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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4 Re-organising minimum income schemes: the local dimension of Bismarckian activation regimes


4.  Re-organising minimum income schemes: the local dimension of Bismarckian activation regimes

This chapter theorises on the question of how Bismarckian regimes for the activation of long-term unemployed and weaker and vulnerable groups of society might be organised at the local level. To understand the remodelling of Bismarckian welfare states towards an employment-centred institutional filter of minimum income schemes, we argue that it is necessary to go beyond analysing processes of European diffusion of ‘good’ governance and national regimes of activation. The predominant focus of the Bismarckian activation regime on weaker and more vulnerable groups as well as long-term unemployed, who are now being usually referred to minimum income schemes, invigorates a local dimension of the continental European welfare regime. For the implementation of activating services, labour market- and social policies in Bismarckian-type continental Europe, the local level plays a crucial role.

The recalibration of tasks for the promotion of employment, inclusion and social protection for weaker and more vulnerable groups of society onto minimum income programmes fits into dynamics of a decentralisation of the Bismarckian welfare system. It tends to reinforce or revive the development of decentralised welfare state institutions: this is due to the fact that important parts of minimum income assistance are in continental European welfare regimes bound to the local level (cf. chapter 2.2.2). Social services as well as minimum income benefit schemes are traditionally based on locally bound structures in many European welfare states (Bahle 2003) and the local level is...

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