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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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5 A methodology for comparative empirical studies on the reorganisation of minimum income schemes

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5.  A methodology for comparative empirical studies on the reorganisation of minimum income schemes

This work raises the question on the reaction of Bismarckian-type continental European welfare states to rising numbers of beneficiaries of minimum income schemes. The attempt to institutionalise an activation regime for persistently unemployed and vulnerable groups was identified as a general response to this problem. However, we argue that the institutionalisation of such an activation regime can only to some extent be explained by processes of European diffusion of ‘good governance’ and national institutional coordination. A recalibration of tasks of social protection of unemployed onto much locally bound minimum income schemes, and the requirements of a local co-production of tailor-made services to activate persistently unemployed, unemployed persons with health problems, and other disadvantaged groups excluded from the labour market makes the local level play an important role in the Bismarckian activation regime.

We transformed this observation of an essential role of the local level in the continental European welfare states’ policy answers to rising numbers of recipients of minimum income schemes into two hypotheses. First, the institutionalisation of distinct local organisational fields to activate recipients of minimum income schemes challenges the fragmented Bismarckian welfare state architecture. The institutionalisation of such local organisational fields rises up to the challenges of the Bismarckian welfare states’ problems to coordinate between separated policy levels, policy fields and actors. Second, the way recipients of minimum income schemes are activated at the local level is influenced by the...

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