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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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6 The traditional role of minimum income schemes in France and Germany


6.  The traditional role of minimum income schemes in France and Germany

In both France and Germany, the delivery of benefits and services towards unemployed and persons at risk of exclusion is traditionally framed by strong differences in the distribution of competences among levels of government, in the role of public providers and private actors, and the specific characteristics of policies and social protection programmes. Taken together, these three categories define the particular and established context a local co-production for the recipients of minimum income schemes is confronted with in these Bismarckian welfare states (cf. chapter 4.2.2). In the following, we identify this context of the inter-organisation of benefit schemes, active labour market policy services and social services in France and Germany before crucial social and labour market reforms took place.

The traditional organisation of benefits, policies and services for the unemployed in France and Germany corresponds to a typical Bismarckian labour market policy for workers (Clasen and Clegg 2006; Clasen and Clegg 2003; Daguerre and Taylor-Gooby 2003). In both countries, the organisation of policies and services has been strongly influenced by Bismarckian corporatist institutions.

In France, the social partners take an extremely important position in the management of the contribution-financed public unemployment insurance (Clasen and Clegg 2006: 536–538). The French unemployment insurance, UNEDIC (‘Union nationale interprofessionnelle pour l’emploi dans l’industrie et le commerce’), has been a private institution, entirely financed out of contributions by workers and employers since 1984. This has so...

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