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Article
Publication date: 31 July 2007

Rik van Berkel and Vando Borghi

This editorial aims to introduce the first of a set of two special issues on New modes of governance in activation policies.

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Abstract

Purpose

This editorial aims to introduce the first of a set of two special issues on New modes of governance in activation policies.

Design/methodology/approach

The article explores the concept of governance, distinguishing a broad and more narrow use of the concept. Then, it argues that issues of governance should be an integral part of studies of welfare state transformations. Not in the last instance, because governance reforms do have an impact on the content of social policies and social services such as activation. The article continues by discussing three models of the provision of social services.

Findings

The article states that the development of the modes of governance in activation in various countries reveals that a mix of service provision models is being used.

Originality/value

The article introduces the articles of the special issue.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 25 February 2020

Gianluca Scarano

The purpose of this paper is to understand the impact of activation policies in contexts of public-oriented employment services.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand the impact of activation policies in contexts of public-oriented employment services.

Design/methodology/approach

The fieldwork was conducted in Italy, using the regional case of Emilia-Romagna as a representation of public-oriented models. The empirical research relies primarily on quantitative research methods by means of impact evaluations based on very rich and recent administrative data that includes 20,014 observations. These are integrated with some interesting insights from qualitative research tools by means of semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in the fieldwork.

Findings

The overall level of effectiveness of activation policies does not seem to be particularly high. However, the results show that, to some extent, there are more advantages for job seekers furthest from the labor market. The stronger efforts made to assist those disadvantaged groups are probably related to a loss in the overall effectiveness of the system.

Research limitations/implications

This analysis has focused on a substantially homogeneous and economically developed region. Indeed, Italian activation policy reforms have been implemented differently in different areas of the country. Similar to other Southern European countries, they are characterized by regional fragmentation and implementation gaps in activation policies.

Practical implications

The findings of the present study are relevant to policymakers who deal with activation policies and to both public and nonpublic organizations involved in this field. It seems plausible to support the possibility that public-oriented models could represent a proficient alternative to proposals relying heavily on market-based interventions. Such evidence becomes particularly interesting in the aftermath of the Great Recession when this model is confronted with the consequences of the economic crisis.

Originality/value

The paper adds to the literature on public-oriented models, while overcoming some of the limitations of earlier research, which has been restricted mainly to cases with early traditions of marketized services.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 40 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 June 2012

Rik van Berkel, Willibrord de Graaf and Tomáš Sirovátka

The purpose of this introduction to the special issue is to give an overview of the key aspects of the governance of activation policies as discussed in the existing…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this introduction to the special issue is to give an overview of the key aspects of the governance of activation policies as discussed in the existing literature. It explains the focus and contribution of this special issue and provides a brief summary of the main findings in the individual articles.

Design/methodology/approach

In this special issue the comparative analysis of the key aspects of governance of activation policies like centralization/decentralization, new public management, marketization and network governance is covered, accompanied by an assessment of the role of implementation conditions in shaping the real trends of governance reforms of activation policies. Further, the effects of governance reforms and the influence of EU governance on the dynamics of national activation policies are discussed. This comparative analysis leads to a typology of the “worlds of governance” of activation policies in Europe.

Findings

All the countries show certain comparable converging trends in the reforms of governance of activation, although a closer look helps us determine the shape of increasingly different patterns of governance in several respects. In spite of this variety, another general finding is the common discrepancy between aims and effects: the key explanation involves implementation failures. Three governance regimes may be distinguished in the EU countries: committed marketizers, modernizers and slow modernizers.

Originality/value

This paper suggests a new typology of governance regimes.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 32 no. 5/6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 31 July 2007

Håkan Johansson and Bjørn Hvinden

To clarify the core characteristics of Nordic activation policies in the context of typologies of European activation governance.

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Abstract

Purpose

To clarify the core characteristics of Nordic activation policies in the context of typologies of European activation governance.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper analyses activation governance in the light of the basic values and beliefs behind the formation of the Nordic social protection systems in the mid‐20th century. Recent model‐building efforts see the Nordic countries as being close to a “universalistic” and egalitarian type of activation policy that does not systematically submit citizens to work requirements. The authors ask whether this model captures the actual scope and contents of Nordic activation governance.

Findings

The Nordic countries‐based relatively generous income security systems on a strong work ethic and ambitions to maximise labour market participation of the working‐age population. Citizens's rights to income security were generally linked to the fulfilment of work requirements. Although this active governance of unemployed citizens eroded in the 1970s and 1980s all the Nordic countries revived it after 1990. Largely reflecting the dual structure of the income protection system, Nordic active approaches to activation are not egalitarian.

Research limitations/implications

Nordic countries are currently implementing major administrative reforms in social protection, possibly creating more unified and egalitarian governance of activation. Future research needs to assess the impact of these reforms.

Originality/value

The article presents an analysis of activation policies that so far has been missing from comparative research and that will be of particular value for non‐Nordic readers who may have received a biased view of Nordic activation policies.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 9 April 2018

Diego Coletto and Simona Guglielmi

The purpose of this paper is to understand the process that occurs within public employment offices (PEOs) and its consequences for unemployed people. Specifically, it…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand the process that occurs within public employment offices (PEOs) and its consequences for unemployed people. Specifically, it analysed some practices needed to implement activation programmes developed in some PEO in Lombardy (Italy) and the role of front-line officers, promoting a dialogue between the literature on activation policies on one hand and the literature on street-level bureaucracy on the other.

Design/methodology/approach

The fieldwork has been conducted in Lombardy, which is one of most economically developed areas both in Italy and in Europe. The empirical research integrated quantitative and qualitative research tools; specifically a CATI survey of 994 persons; participant and non-participant observations, semi-structured interviews, and an analysis of documents in four PEOs.

Findings

The paper describes and analyses both practices needed to implement activation programmes and the perceptions of the social actors (unemployed people and front-line officers) who build and address these practices daily. Specifically, the attention is focussed on the different forms of discretion used by PEOs’ front-line officers and a mix of technical, relational and psychological support received in the PEOs. Moreover, the authors noticed that the front-line officers’ discretion seemed to be more limited in those parts of the activation process in which it should be more relevant, that is, the identification of training courses aimed at increasing unemployed workers’ skills. Notwithstanding these limits, many users expressed positive opinions of these courses, which could be explained by secondary functions of training courses.

Research limitations/implications

The qualitative portion of the fieldwork has limited generalisability because it focussed on few PEOs.

Practical implications

The findings are relevant to policy makers who deal with activation policies and to public and private organisations that implement those policies.

Originality/value

Many studies have analysed the implementation of the welfare-to-work model that has oriented the reforms of labour market activation policies in most countries, focussing on the more tangible outcomes (essentially their efficacy in terms of re-employment rates). A growing stream of recent literature has begun to place more attention on the non-economic consequences of activation programmes, focussing mainly on countries with quite a long tradition of activation policies while remaining scant in countries where the implementation of activation programmes is still fragmented and more recent (like Italy). This paper aims to begin filling this gap by improving the knowledge on some non-economic consequences of activation programmes, focussing on user-officer relations and on daily practices in PEOs.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 38 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 June 2012

Paolo R. Graziano

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…

963

Abstract

Purpose

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?

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 32 no. 5/6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 June 2012

Peppi Saikku and Vappu Karjalainen

The purpose of this article is to describe the implementation and results of Finnish activation policy from the viewpoint of integrated services and in the framework of…

704

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to describe the implementation and results of Finnish activation policy from the viewpoint of integrated services and in the framework of network governance. Special emphasis is given to examining the role of health care as an emergent partner in activation.

Design/methodology/approach

The functioning of integrated activation policy is addressed from the perspective of network governance. Network governance refers to an ideal type of governance based on strong strategic partnership and joint action. In Finland the one‐stop model of LAFOS represents a culmination of integrated activation policy. Implementation and results of LAFOS highlight the governance demands of joined‐up service delivery. Health care proposes yet another viewpoint to the development. The analysis is based on the results of two national evaluations.

Findings

Network governance has been a good starting point in Finnish activation policy for creating a client‐centered approach and for the co‐ordination of separate resources and services. However, problems with legitimacy and accountability seem hard to overcome in the network context. Elements of different types of governance are mixed in activation policy while network governance remains in transition. In Finland, health care has been an essential party to activation, and its role is getting stronger. The challenge is to incorporate health and work ability into a wider concept of employability and capability in society.

Originality/value

The article presents an analysis of the unique model of joint services in activation, LAFOS, and its governance. It also contributes to the discussion of the role of health care in activation and integrated activation policy.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 32 no. 5/6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 June 2012

Renate Minas, Sharon Wright and Rik van Berkel

The purpose of this article is to examine the governance of activation in relation to the decentralization and centralization of activation for social assistance…

3808

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to examine the governance of activation in relation to the decentralization and centralization of activation for social assistance recipients in Sweden, The Netherlands and the UK.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper outlines broad trends in the governance of activation policies in Europe, focusing on processes of decentralization and centralization in Sweden (characterized by a context of shifting national and local level governance of policies, cultivated within a strong tradition of active labour market policies); The Netherlands (where there has been a deliberate shift in governance towards the local level); and the UK (typified by highly centralized decision making in policy design but local variation in delivery).

Findings

The comparison identified different paths of decentralization and examines how these processes interact and overlap with modes of centralization/coordination of policies. Finally, the paper demonstrates the interface between the modes of decentralization and centralization.

Originality/value

The investigation of vertical changes in the governance of activation in three country case studies provides an original in‐depth analysis of types and paths of decentralization and centralization.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 32 no. 5/6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 January 2006

Jens Lind and Iver Hornemann Møller

This paper evaluates why activation programmes are still an important and core component of most European countries’ social‐ and labour market policies when it has become…

1066

Abstract

Purpose

This paper evaluates why activation programmes are still an important and core component of most European countries’ social‐ and labour market policies when it has become increasingly clear that the employment effects are most often either unknown or very small.

Design/methodology/approach

To answer this issue, an in‐depth investigation of the evolution of activation programmes in the specific national context of Denmark is investigated.

Findings

Charting in detail the evolution of labour market activation (or workfare) programmes in Denmark, this paper displays the ongoing intensification of activation policies and ways in which this has reduced the living standards of marginalised groups and explains this to be the result of a power block that has a wider intent of disciplining the whole workforce, not least by encouraging more people to work harder and for longer hours, and rarely with overtime compensation.

Research limitations/implications

This paper explains the reasons for the continuing use of labour market insertion programmes when there is a lack of evidence that they are effective in achieving their goal of inserting people into employment.

Originality/value

This paper uses the notion of a power block to understand the reasons for advanced economies persisting with labour market activation programmes.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 26 no. 1/2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 8 July 2014

Bettina Grimmer and Jennifer Hobbins

With a particular focus on cultural understandings and the concepts behind welfare policies, the purpose of this paper is to analyse commonalities and dissimilarities in…

Abstract

Purpose

With a particular focus on cultural understandings and the concepts behind welfare policies, the purpose of this paper is to analyse commonalities and dissimilarities in the patterns of social policy, and more precisely youth unemployment policies, in Sweden and Germany.

Design/methodology/approach

A document analysis of Swedish and German youth unemployment policies was conducted with regard to how the two welfare regimes’ policies define the underlying problem, the instruments through which this problem is tackled, and the aim of youth activation policies.

Findings

The findings show congruency concerning the definitions of the problem of youth unemployment, in which the unemployed are regarded as lacking in discipline, as well as in the policies through which the problem is tackled: through conditionality and pastoral power as policy tools. The solution of the problem on the other hand, found in the notion of the ideal worker to be produced, diverges between active entrepreneurs in one country, and blue-collar workers in the other. The authors conclude that the introduction of supranational policy concepts is not a matter of mere implementation, and that concepts like activation are reinterpreted according to differing cultural ideologies and accommodated into the context of particular welfare states.

Originality/value

This paper provides an innovative framework for the understanding of the influence of cultural understandings on policy making, but also on challenges facing activation governance on the one hand and European Union policy initiatives and transnational policy diffusion on the other.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 34 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

1 – 10 of over 4000