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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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7 The institutionalisation of employment-centred welfare in Germany

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7.  The institutionalisation of employment-centred welfare in Germany

In the following parts, it is analysed how recent labour market and social policy reforms are introduced in Germany in order to react to increased numbers of recipients of minimum income benefits (cf. Fig. 1). We investigate into the introduction of activation policies and attempts of re-organising the traditional approaches towards unemployed and persons at the risk of social exclusion.

Reacting to a longer trend of rising minimum income benefit recipients, new government priorities for employment policy have been introduced in Germany (Jacobi and Mohr 2007: 227). Especially a series of reforms during the years 2002 till 2005, which are referred to as ‘Hartz’ reforms, introduced radical changes to German labour market and social policy. According to Eichhorst et al. (2008a) and Jacobi and Mohr (2008) these reforms aim to react to the problem of unemployment by giving priority to work-first strategies:

“(…) the aim of this reform was to lower unemployment but also to ease the burden of taxation and non-wage labour costs by reducing benefit dependency. The major lever to achieve this goal was the shortening of individual unemployment spells through accelerated job placement and more coherent activation of the beneficiaries (…).” (Eichhorst et al. 2008a: 23).

Challenging the traditional approaches of a social treatment of unemployment, these reforms comprise a series of different reform programmes which are identified as a shift towards activating labour market and social policies (Dingeldey 2007; Ludwig-Mayerhofer 2005). Impacting...

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