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Converging worlds of activation? Activation policies and governance in Europe and the role of the EU

Paolo R. Graziano (Department of Institutional Analysis and Public Management, Bocconi University, Milano, Italy)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 15 June 2012




The purpose of this article is to examine the relationship between the emerging European activation policies and the evolution of domestic activation policies and its governance. Drawing on the emerging Europeanization debate and comparative literature on activation, the crucial research question will be the following: is there a European Union (EU)‐induced convergence in domestic activation policies in the EU?


Following Bonoli's work, the article unpacks activation in two dimensions (human capital investment and employment market orientation) and looks at the trajectories of seven Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) countries using OECD active labour market policy (ALMP) expenditure data.


The article argues that there is only limited EU‐induced convergence towards the employment assistance component of the EU hybrid model and similarly limited convergence can be seen with respect to the governance of activation policies. Although fully‐fledged explanations of such limited convergence go beyond the scope of this article, the paper puts forward two tentative explanations which should be tested with further research: first, the lack of convergence may lie primarily in the overall “softness” of the European Employment Strategy (which means, among other things, limited resources), but the lack of convergence may also lie in the lack of administrative capacities enabling member state governments to fully implement innovative activation policies.


The paper is innovative since it empirically tests the role of European policies and ideas in shaping domestic reforms of activation policies. Contrary to other findings, the article shows that there is a limited degree of convergence and that the role is particularly negligible with respect to implementation capacities of reformed activation strategies.



Graziano, P.R. (2012), "Converging worlds of activation? Activation policies and governance in Europe and the role of the EU", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 32 No. 5/6, pp. 312-326.



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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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