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Welfare Reform on the Web (September 2007): Social security - overseas

Changing modes of governance in activation policies in France and the Netherlands: common path or countermodel?

N. van Gestel and J.-M. Herbillon

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27, 2007, p. 324-333

During the last decade France and the Netherlands have experienced major changes in their activation services for the unemployed. Moving away from a traditionally hierarchical structure, France is gradually developing a network model with more emphasis on decentralisation. On the other hand, the Netherlands privatised its public employment services and explored principal-agent relations in activation. The institutional context of both nations, in particular the concept of path dependency, seems crucial in the explanation of these differences. On the other hand, there is a clear overall common trend towards mobilisation of the unemployed, decentralisation of services to local and regional authorities, and the involvement of various non-state actors in policymaking.

Emergence of new modes of governance in activation policies: Czech experience

T. Sirovátka, P. Horák and M. Horáková

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol.27, 2007, p. 311-323

This article explores the implementation at local level of individual action plans (IAPs) for the unemployed in the Czech Republic. Implementation was hampered by poor staffing of local employment offices and lack of activation programmes for the unemployed. Due to these adverse conditions, IAPs have been gradually dying out. However implementation of IAPs triggered a process of institutional learning at the local level, and when EU funding became available through the European Social Funds, employment offices were able to use it to develop individually tailored intensive support programmes for those with multiple barriers to labour market entry.

Implementing public employment policy: what happens when non-public agencies take over?

T. Bredgaard and F. Larsen

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol.27, 2007, p.287-300

This article presents case studies of the contracting out of public employment services in Australia, the Netherlands and Denmark. It explores what happens to employment policies when the services are contracted out to various for-profit and not-for-profit agencies. The analysis shows that the model is better suited than public agency delivery of employment services to promoting a 'work first' approach to the unemployed. Secondly, it allows the unemployed to be prioritised, so that resources are not wasted on hopeless cases or on people capable of finding a job on their own. Thirdly, contracting out also enables politicians to control the costs of employment services, by buying in more or less of them.

The individual job seeker in the sphere of contractualism

E. Sol and M. Westerveld

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol.27, 2007, p. 301-310

Governments of Western countries are increasingly contracting out the provision of work reintegration services (vocational training, etc), benefits administration, and job brokerage. This article attempts to shed light on what these changes mean for the individual job seeker. The new model emphasizes the contract between the employment service and the individual, by which the job seeker receives benefits in return for signing up to an 'action plan' to hasten his/her reintegration into the labour market. Research has demonstrated that this approach increases the level of involvement of the individual job seeker and thereby increases the number of job placements.

Policy for the 'peak hour' of life: lessons from the new Dutch Life Course Saving Scheme

R. Maier, W. de Graaf and P. Frericks

European Societies, vol. 9, 2007, p. 339-358

The Life Course Saving Scheme introduced in the Netherlands in 2006 offers employees the opportunity to save up to 12% of their gross salary for a period of leave without exit from employment. The leave can be taken to fulfil caring responsibilities, to undertake training, or for early retirement. The amount saved can reach a maximum of 210% of gross annual salary. After using all or some of the money saved for a period of leave, the employee can start saving again. Money paid into the LCSS from gross salary is not taxed. Instead income tax is levied when funds are used as salary replacement during a period of leave. This article critically evaluates the new scheme.

Re-activating the Nordic welfare states: do we find a distinct universalistic model?

H. Johansson and B. Hvinden

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol.27, 2007, p. 334-346

This paper analyses activation governance in the light of the basic values behind the formation of Nordic social protection systems in the mid-20th century. 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' 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. However, Nordic approaches to activation are not egalitarian. There are two types of income security provision: means-tested social assistance financed out of general taxation and social insurance financed by contributions of scheme members and their employers. Reflecting this duality, there are two parallel employment services: those run by the state and focused on people receiving unemployment or disability insurance and those run by the municipalities for social assistance recipients. There is evidence that social assistance recipients participating in municipal activation measures are more exposed to paternalistic control and punitive treatment.

Swapping policies: alternative tax benefit strategies to support children in Austria, Spain and the UK

H. Levy, C. Lietz and H. Sutherland

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 36, 2007, p. 625-647

Three European countries with very different tax-benefit systems have recently substantially increased the level of support for children: Austria, Spain and the UK. Austria mainly makes use of universal benefits; Spain offers tax concessions; and the UK relies on means-tested benefits and tax credits. This article addresses the question of whether the chosen strategies are in fact the most effective for each country. Results show that the UK's means-testing approach would be the most successful in reducing child poverty if implemented in any of the three countries.

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