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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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8 The institutionalisation of employment-centred welfare in France


8.  The institutionalisation of employment-centred welfare in France

At the background of increased numbers of recipients of minimum income benefits in France (cf. Fig. 1), in the following chapters, it is analysed how labour market and social policies react to this challenge. We analyse the introduction of activation policies and we investigate into attempts of re-organising the approaches towards unemployed and persons at the risk of social exclusion.

In reaction to rising unemployment, non-wage labour costs and public deficits, France has introduced labour market and social protection reforms. New government priorities – at least partly – initiate a shift from the social treatment of unemployment towards the activation of unemployed into employment. The French reforms match the typical Bismarckian welfare state reform patterns of activation at the ‘margins’ (Clegg 2007) and thereby put minimum income schemes into focus.

The Bismarckian style French social protection system has been subject to numerous important changes.

A series of changes of the unemployment insurance programme has remodelled the programme into a more employment oriented benefit system (Allocation de Retour à l’Emploi, ARE). Several, albeit smaller reforms have led to an increasingly circumscribed provision of unemployment insurance benefits (Daguerre and Taylor-Gooby 2003: 630). Most significantly, in 2001, given continuous budgetary problems of the unemployment insurance programme, the social partners agreed to restrict entitlement criteria by strengthening the insurance principle. Stricter contributory requirements for accessing unemployment insurance and a reduction of the maximum duration of entitlement from 30 down to 23...

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