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

The 'double dynamics' of activation: institutions, citizens and the remaking of welfare governance

J. Newman

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27, 2007, p. 364-375

This paper explores activation policy as a condensate or lens for a number of discussions about new configurations of power and authority. These reconfigurations involve on the one hand new relationships between individuals and institutions, and, on the other, the extension of contractual, market and network relationships between institutions in a plural state. This paper asks how far apparently similar concepts - contractualisation, individuation and personalisation - can be applied to the governance of institutions and the governance of persons.

Governing the activation of older workers in the European Union: the construction of the 'activated retiree'

E. Carmel, K. Hamblin and T. Papadopoulos

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27, 2007, p. 387-400

It is argued that governing the activation of older workers (50 to 64-year-olds) and retirees aged 65-69 in the EU institutes a new category of social subject, namely the 'activated retiree'. The old distinction between employment and retirement is eroded, and the social rights formerly attached to retirement are undermined. This paper explores how contradictions and tensions within and between employment, pensions and social exclusion policies are reflected in, and the products of, a re-allocation of responsibilities between the EU, member states, social partners and individuals. It also explains how employment for older workers is constructed as having a different meaning to the employment of other workers, and how EU discourse on active ageing disguises crucial inequalities between groups of older workers, both pre- and post-retirement.

The government of activation policies by EU institutions

A. Serrano Pascual and E. Crespo Suarez

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27, 2007, p. 376-386

This paper looks at how EU institutions are responding to the labour market crisis in Europe. It is argued that the EU is presenting economic globalisation and the need for Europe to compete successfully in a cut-throat international market place as immutable facts to which European societies have no choice but to adapt. National and supranational governments are regarded as powerless to modify the rules of the game of international competitiveness. In this context politics is transformed into policies for managing adaptation to a situation regarded as inevitable and fixed. However this depoliticisation of labour market regulation goes hand in hand with the repoliticisation of individuals. The demands of the new economic status quo require citizens to place themselves at the disposal of new economic realities and to mould their attitudes around them. The activation paradigm proposed by EU institutions in the European Employment Strategy is emblematic of the new moral duty laid on each citizen to take responsibility for him/herself.

The impact of contractualism in social policies: the case of active labour market policies in Switzerland

J.-M. Bonvin and E. Moachon

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27, 2007, p. 401-412

This paper analyses the current transformation of public action in the field of welfare along two main lines of reflection: on the one hand the changing relationships between individuals and institutions, and on the other hand, the new contractual or market-like ways of designing and implementing public services. This transformation and the extent to which it represents a deep-seated revolution or a more limited recalibration of the welfare state is investigated via the case of active labour market policies in Switzerland. The analysis shows that the emergence of new modes of governance coincides with the promotion of market solutions to unemployment, thus leading to a conception of welfare and its beneficiaries as subordinate to labour market requirements.

Individualised service provision in an era of activation and new governance

V. Borghi and R. van Berkel

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 27, 2007, p. 413-424

The discourse of new governance aims at involving citizens, in their capacity of users of social services, in processes of emancipation and empowerment in relation to unresponsive bureaucracies and paternalistic professionals. This article discusses how the new governance discourse and its objective of 'putting the customer in the driving seat' affects provision of services in the area of labour market activation. It argues that different concepts of individualisation have different consequences for what individualised services actually mean in practice. The concept of the new governance is not a clear and consistent blueprint for new modes of public administration, but a collective term for a variety of reforms that are full of tensions, contradictions and conflicts between themselves. These affect the content and meaning of individualised social services as well as the roles of citizens-as-service-users in the provision of these services. This is illustrated through an analysis of individualised service provision in the context of activation in the UK, the Netherlands and Finland.

Long-run effects of training programs for the unemployed in East Germany

B. Fitzenberger and R. Völter

Labour Economics, vol.14, 2007, p. 730-755

Public sector sponsored training was widely used in East Germany in the 1990s to adjust the skills of the workforce to the demands of a market economy. This study examines the impact of three such programmes. Practice Firms are simulated firms in which participants practice everyday work activities. The Specific Professional Skills and Techniques programme aims to provide additional skills and specific professional knowledge in medium-term courses. Retraining consists of provision of new and comprehensive vocational training under the German apprenticeship system. Results of the evaluation show positive medium- and long-term employment effects for the Specific Professional Skills and Techniques programme, while the other two show no consistent impact on reducing flows into unemployment. No programme results in a reduction in benefit receipt, and the effects are quite similar for males and females.

Welfare reforms and consumption among single mother households: evidence from Canadian provinces

M. Brzozowski

Canadian Public Policy, vol. 33, 2007, p. 227-250

In the second half of the 1990s Canadians experienced significant changes in the rules governing eligibility for social assistance and in levels of benefits which varied from province to province. Welfare reforms were most extensive in the province of Ontario where benefit levels were cut by 21% and eligibility rules were tightened. This paper explores the impact of the 1995-1998 Ontario welfare reforms on consumption levels among single mothers. Results show that, despite considerable tightening of welfare regimes, there were no long-term negative consequences for average consumption among single mothers relative to control groups.

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