To operationalise this analytical framework, a series of case studies were conducted in the frame of a FP7 European research programme: Local Worlds of Social Cohesion (Localise). In terms of methodology, these case studies were conducted in six countries by expert research teams. Using mainly documentary analysis and interviews with national stakeholders, each team produced a national case study report based on this analytical framework available on the Localise website (http://www.localise-research.eu). The following comparative analysis of the national governance of social cohesion is based on these national case studies. Six countries were selected at the beginning of the Localise research project (Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden and Poland) in order to obtain a variety of welfare states. Showing significant differences both in terms of labour market structure (see the Appendix Figure A1) and employment policies, these six national activation cases were analysed and compared over a decade (2001–2011).
A challenging territorialisation
Vertical rescaling has taken place in all six countries. This has notably occurred through decentralisation processes that were launched or reinforced as a modus operandi, no matter the country's institutional framework (federalist, centralised or devolved). This growing vertical coordination relies on a common tendency to strengthen territorialisation and proximity. This is understood as a way of developing tailor-made forms of public intervention. Moreover, it creates an opportunity to transfer some of the political and financial burdens of employment policies to local authorities during periods of scarce public resources (van Berkel & Borghi, 2008).
However, employment policies have been territorialised to infra-national levels only to a small extent. This policy field relies instead on a centre–periphery paradigm that is more or less centralised according to the division of national competences. The definition of political goals and the design of primary instruments are usually controlled and regulated at the national level, whereas local levels are responsible only for the implementation of public policies. Indeed, employment policies were either territorialised by delocalising policy implementation with a limited scope of adaptation and innovation or left as a voluntary task (e.g. in Germany where labour market policies are a voluntary competence for the regions, that is, Länder). Even though each country shows its specificity, this power distribution in terms of the policymaking process is a common trend. In Germany, for example, it is the national/federal level that is in charge of supervising the employment agency, while municipalities and districts are responsible for implementing the federal and regional laws. In Polnd, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy is in charge of ‘employment and unemployment policy, working conditions, wages and labour benefits, collective labour relations and collective bargaining’, but ‘has not direct control over organisations which carry out everyday tasks of social policy’ (Sztandar Szanderska & Mandes, 2011, p. 13). In terms of labour market policies, most of these responsibilities have been transferred to the Poviat Labour Office (PUP). However, as in many other countries, ‘policy instruments, target groups as well as standard of job counselling and job placement are centrally defined’ (Sztandar Szanderska & Mandes, 2011, p. 15). In the UK, even though the central government seeks ‘greater local involvement in policymaking to address criticism that policies are not reflecting local needs’ (McQuaid, Dutton, & Fuertes, 2011, p. 31), it remains a centralised system of government which mostly territorialises through contracting out. In Italy, several measures have fostered decentralisation (Treu Law, Bassanini Law, Constitutional Reform etc.). Constitutional Reform made employment policies a responsibility of both the state and the regions, and more recently the latter became responsible for the implementation of social assistance policies (Graziano, Bertolini, & Del Gaudio, 2011). The regional responsibility for ALMP (active labour market policies) is borne by the provinces in implementing the regional policies. In France, ‘if the state has the authority on employment issues, social issues have been territorialized to local authorities’ (Berthet & Bourgeois, 2011, p. 22). Sweden decentralised its employment policies ‘to cope with activation of welfare recipients, specifically youths’ (Bengtsson, 2011, p. 38). However, even though the level of discretion of local authorities appears to be greater than in other countries (e.g. because local authorities are legally authorised to refuse or lessen economic support in some specific cases), the main political decisions (notably in terms of identifying target groups and of policy instruments) are still centralised.
The main comparative finding shows that whether decentralisation takes the form of giving more responsibilities to local authorities in terms of policy implementation or policy making, it still has not yet reached its objectives. An unclear division of responsibilities common to many European countries constitutes the main reason for the difficulty in implementing territorialisation (Berthet & Bourgeois, 2011; Bifulco, Bricocoli, & Monteleone, 2008). Local authorities often do not precisely know what they are responsible for. This results in a relative consensus which enables only timid actions. These actions do not affirm responsibility, but show that the issue has not been put aside.
Cross-sectoriality: spread of employment issues and difficulties of targeting public action
In the six countries under study, the horizontal integration of different policy fields at the national level shows strong differences, some being often integrated into active labour market policies (training), some not (housing). There is a clear predominance of the nexus employment/training. Indeed, in the six countries analysed, professional training and vocational education policies are closely connected to the national employment strategy. Although often delegated to local authorities (generally at the regional level), training policies have been integrated because of their close relationship with the labour market. In Germany and France, training measures are regularly prescribed by the Public Employment Service (PES) to secure professional transition. In Sweden, it was a very popular method which began to be used in 1986 as a qualification for a new unemployment benefit period (its use has decreased since 2001, however, because of the introduction of new methods). In Italy, training policies are often considered as a lever for competitiveness. In Poland, although supported by a human capital investment philosophy, training policies are generally limited in supporting access to the labour market. Apprenticeship appears to be a commonly used resource in the Polish integration scheme.
The identification of vulnerable groups is a transversal component of the six national systems. Indeed, the analysis of the six countries reveals that the multi-dimensional integration set up at the national level is typically shaped according to the national system's definition of target groups. It seeks to reach those considered furthest away from employment in order to bring them back and/or to facilitate their (re)entry into the labour market. This identification of vulnerable groups is a key element of cross-sectoriality and a good indicator of its level of progression. It is undeniably a central element in the individualisation trend of employment policies (see below). It is also, in a way, an indicator of the level of policies' integration in a logic of cross-sectoriality.
Hence, we observe a shared dysfunction in our six countries. On the one hand, and with regard to singular social matters, researchers and experts have identified vulnerable populations. On the other hand, the groups targeted in the national activation policies do not systematically overlap (see Table 1). This statement raises questions. Indeed, the targeting of activation policies is first established with regard to the labour market's selection mechanisms. Thus, such targeting is built according to the identification of populations based on their difficulties in accessing employment. However, categories may be identified as vulnerable because of broader social factors which more generally refer to social policies rather than employment policies. It is especially significant with regard to the integration of policies pertaining to activation and priority access to employment. The decoupling of categories in terms of activation and vulnerability may reflect a weak degree of integration.
Table 1. Vulnerable groups
|Vulnerable groups|| |
- Long-term unemployed
- Senior workers
| || || |
- Low skilled
- Senior (>55)
- Long-term unemployed
- Persons with psychological disabilities
- Long-term unemployed
- People on sickness benefit
- Senior (>50)
|Focus of activation policies|| |
- Long-term unemployed
- Older workers
- Long-term unemployed
| || |
- Young unemployed (below 25)
- Older unemployed (over 50)
- Long-term unemployed;
- Unemployed whose social contract with social assistance has terminated
- Unemployed women who have not returned to work after the birth of their child
- Unemployed people without professional qualifications, without professional experience or without secondary education
- Unemployed single-parents
- Unemployed ex-prisoners who have not taken up a job after being released from a prison
- Long-term ill
- IB claimants, young (focus on 16- to 17-year-olds on jobseeker's allowance)
- Lone parents
Conditionality and individualisation
Individualisation is a strong component of activation-friendly integration policies. This is because integration (of stakeholders, dimensions and levels) is required to ensure individualised and global support for the unemployed. To set up such targeted policies and tailor-made services, profiling individuals becomes necessary. Categorising groups requires several variables to be analysed regarding the individual. The main variable is the measure of the ‘distance to/from employment’, which will thus establish different categories that are entitled to different services.
In all cases, profiling is a good indicator of the diffusion of a managerial model of individualisation. Analyses of the concept of profiling show that:
… it is insufficient to call profiling a diagnosis tool for the assessment of the risk of long-term unemployment which is applied by the assessment of a placement agent, screening, or statistical models. (…). The roles of profiling are much more diverse. (…). Profiling is a combination of customer-oriented approach and process-oriented organization of business processes (Konle-Seidl & Rudolph, 2005, p. 17).
Among our six countries, two of them do not use jobseeker profiling (Sweden and Poland). Two countries, Italy and France, have established profiling based on three categories. In Italy, three profiles are defined according to the programmes of the employment policies: ordinary unemployed, cassa integrazione (without suspension of the work contract), and beneficiaries of the mobility programme. In France, jobseekers are profiled according to their risk of long-term unemployment into three categories corresponding to three levels of services. In the UK, profiling is based on four categories also corresponding to the level of services: full conditionality, work preparation, keeping in touch with the labour market, no conditionality.
Activation has also often been characterised by the increase in conditionality for accessing social benefits. Operationally, activation relies on two pillars: the access conditions of the unemployment insurance and the definition of a system of sanctions to ensure the active behaviour of beneficiaries.
First of all, conditionality affects access to unemployment benefits. All national systems of benefits rely on the definition of access criteria in order for unemployed people to receive unemployment insurance (Table 2). The UK is an exception to this rule, as access to benefits depends on participation in active labour market policies (ALMP). The five other countries rely on duration criteria. In France, as in Sweden, access to unemployment benefits relies on a minimum employment duration of 6 months.2 In Germany, Italy and Poland, the base period is 12 months of employment during either the last 18 (Poland) or 24 (Italy) calendar months.
Table 2. Unemployment benefit conditions
|Conditions for entitlement to unemployment benefit||6 months of work during the last 22 months||Has accomplished the eligibility period (at least 12 months in a job subject to social insurance contributions)|| |
- 1 year of work during the past 2 years
- Payment of contribution during 2 years
- Declaration of immediate availability
- Temporary economic crisis
- The employer must have more than 15 employees
- Work for 12 months and according to size of the firm
- The employer must have a minimum amount of employees
Worked for 1 year during the last 18 months earning minimum salary
Paid eligible contributions
|The person needs to have worked during the last 12 months before unemployment at least 80 hours a month in at least 6 months or, alternatively, 480 hours during 6 consecutive months and then at least 50 hours per month|| |
Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA): contribution-based (up to 6 months) or income-based
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): The person must have an illness or disability that affects his or her ability to work.
Contribution-based or income-based (in this case, the person should have savings of less than £16,000 and have a partner or civil partner who works less than 24 hours a week on average).
The overall replacement rate (OECD) is 44%
|The average compensation level is 62% of the previous salary (ARE)||2 successive levels:|
- ALGI (12 months, not means-tested, 67% if with children, 60% otherwise)
- ALGII (means-tested, infinite duration, stronger activation)
Duration: 8 months if the worker is below 50 years old and 12 months otherwise
Level: 60% for the first 6 months, then 50% months 7 and 8, and finally 40% until the 12th month
Cassa integrazione (52 weeks): never above 80% of the previous income
Mobility (1 year if under 40 years old, 2 years if between 40 and 50, 3 years if over 50 years old if in the South of Italy +1 year for each category): level variable
People who have worked less than 5 years receive 80% of the standard allowance
People who have worked more than 20 years (fulfilling the above-mentioned conditions) receive 120%
Standard allowance: 22% of average salary and 54% of minimum salary during first 3 months, reduced to 17% of average salary and 43% of minimum one during the following months
Maximum 300 days (the exception for parents of children under 18 is 450 days)
The compensation level for the first 200 days is 80%, thereafter 70% until day 300
|Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance: up to 6 months|
When an unemployed person does not fulfil the required conditions, sanctions may occur. In some cases, such as in Italy, the existence of severe sanctions (unemployment benefit termination) is poorly implemented. In France, to make the implementation of sanctions acceptable to the PES employees, the sanctioning process has been made progressive. Such progressivity is a common rule for five countries (France, Germany, UK, Sweden and Poland) and is expressed through status (radiation), level (percentage of benefits) or benefit duration.
For example, sanctions that apply for refusing an appointment with the placement services are generally equally or less severe than those for refusing a job (with the exception of Sweden, where such refusal results in expulsion). The same level of sanctions applies for job refusal and appointment refusal in France and Poland. Sanctions are less severe in Germany (withdrawal of Unemployment Benefit I [UB I] for a week). In the UK, a system of softer sanctions results in a shorter suspension duration than for a job refusal (one week for the first appointment refusal, two weeks for the second and four for the third).
Conditionality also relies on the obligation to accept a suitable job. This idea of ‘suitable job’ is at the core of conditionality (Table 3). Nonetheless, the definition of a suitable or adequate job has not been institutionalised in all six countries (e.g. Italy does not have a proper official definition, nor does the UK). However, France and Sweden subscribe to the idea that some jobs should be considered acceptable to some people. Once defined, unemployed persons cannot refuse such a job opportunity without progressively losing their benefits. Moreover, the definition of the job they must take may vary after a certain time (e.g. after few months of being unemployed, jobseekers may be forced to take a job further away from home) (Table 2).
Table 3. Definition of an appropriate/inappropriate job
| || |
After 4 months: a suitable job constitutes at least 95% of previous salary
After 6 months: 85% of previous salary + maximum 1 hour on public transportation
After 1 year: salary at least equal to unemployment benefit
ALGI: lower income than previous income (first 3 months: more than 20%; following 3 months: 30%; after 6 months: lower than ALG I) and longer commuting (2.5 hrs.) or relocation (for some)
ALGII: every job is appropriate except for some beneficiaries (according to incapacity, children, family care etc.)
|No clear definition|| |
Employment or remunerated work, subject to payment of social contributions
Unemployed person possesses sufficient qualifications and professional experience to perform the job or will be able to perform it after training
The person's health condition makes it possible to perform the job
Journey to work and back home does not exceed 3 hours and can be made by means of public transport
The gross income should equal at least the national minimum wage if it is a full-time job (or should be calculated proportionally to the time of work)
|Since 2007, the unemployed has to accept a job anywhere in the national labour market straight away||No clear definition, but it is noted that a good reason for refusing to follow a ‘direction’ might be, e.g., because it conflicts with religious beliefs or because the job involved would mean the person would be worse off than on Jobseeker's Allowance|
National employment systems now define an ‘appropriate job’ as a job for which refusal may result in a sanction for the unemployed. The level of the demand is generally based on two variables: the distance from home and the salary. In Italy, this notion has not been clearly defined, which explains the weak implementation of sanctions. In Poland, a suitable job is defined by the respective distance, relevant qualifications and professional experience, health condition and salary. In 2001, Sweden retracted the geographical metrics and since 2007 has taken into account the national labour market. In Germany, the definition of a suitable job for the beneficiaries of UB I is expressed in terms of earnings and on the distance from the beneficiary. For the beneficiaries of UB II, all jobs are considered suitable, subject to compatibility with the profile of the beneficiary (incapacity, family etc.). In France, the notion of a suitable job triggered important political and technical debates. It is mainly earnings that are taken into account. During the first 4 months, a suitable job is defined as a job with a salary of no less than 95 per cent of their previous one. After 5 months, the minimum salary level drops to 85 per cent and a condition of distance is included. After 1 year, as in Germany, the reference becomes the amount of the unemployment benefit. Thus, when comparing the definition of an appropriate job, there are important differences between European countries with regard to the nature of the criteria and their intensity.
For many countries, the risks resulting from this conditionality were the best incentive for accepting a job and not remaining unemployed (except for Italy, which did not put such a strong emphasis on the conditionality of social benefits).
A comparative analysis of the way individualisation is tackled in the six national frameworks shows that the stress is put on the categorisation of the unemployed. Even though the six countries have not implemented individualisation and profiling to the same extent from one country to another (Debauche & Georges, 2007), and even though profiling does not necessarily mean strongly individualised support for jobseekers, we observed a clear move towards more individualisation. In terms of conditionality, the previous demonstration clearly shows that while sanctions were established and conditionality to unemployment and/or social benefits reinforced, the challenge relies on their effective implementation which still represents a strong obstacle in some countries (e.g. Italy, France).
Marketisation and contractualisation
Marketisation and contractualisation both question the way in which stakeholders are involved, the extent of their involvement and the nature of this relationship. Clearly, during the last decade, processes such as cooperative partnership, hierarchical coordination, governance and contracting-out have diversified the range of actors involved in the employment policymaking process.
In terms of public/public cooperation, one-stop shops have been created (e.g. German and UK Jobcenters;3 see the article by Renate Minas in this Supplement). This method of integrating several public actors represents, according to van Berkel and Borghi (2008), a ‘popular strategy’. The merging of formerly separated institutions was also fostered as a form of public/public cooperation. The creation of the French Pôle Emploi in 2008 indicated developments beyond the sole co-location of services. It merged unemployment insurance and national employment agency services, just as the Hartz IV Reforms merged long-term unemployment assistance and social assistance in 2005.
In terms of public/private partnerships, the contractualisation and marketisation of public services were made more popular with regard to the policy implementation stage. In all the studied countries, and especially in the UK, contracting out the implementation of these policies has been at least partially utilised. Indeed, the UK is the most advanced in the marketisation trend. Except for this example, the six Localise national case studies show only weak attempts at implementing real marketisation. The partnerships approach has been implemented, but mainly with respect to the long-standing tradition of public administration. Thus, the established partnerships and involvement of new actors have remained within public administration (Commissariat Général du Plan, 2004).
In the UK, the intensive development of public/private partnerships (PPP) and the marketisation of public services have led to the implementation of governance based on PPP. The new work programme has led to the delegation of employment services for the long-term unemployed to private companies. This programme is based on public tendering and payment based on the success of the service providers. Sweden also has a history of purchasing training services from private providers. In general, training represents one of the main policy fields where externalisation is used. This is the case in Italy, where regions, provinces and local employment agencies regularly use private services. In France, the decision was made in 2002 to require the use of the public market for training programmes for the unemployed. This has had a considerable impact on the organisation of the professional training markets and the delivery of services to beneficiaries. In Poland, although private organisations play a minor role in providing services, training action measures is one of the fields where externalisation has developed.
Contractualisation also challenges the nature of the relationship in this case, not only among organisations (public/public and public/private), but also between the state and the citizen. In terms of integration, it questions the place, role, duties and rights of individuals and organisations within the new promoted trend. The level of unemployment compensation as a back-to-work incentive represents a strong indicator of this relation. It is an important factor in successful professional transitions (Gangl, 2008). The unemployment benefit system, in addition to putting pressure on the unemployed to promote active behaviour, is also a key component in avoiding the shift into long-term unemployment and social assistance. This level of compensation differs considerably from one country to another. It varies in intensity (percentage of previous salary) and in time (in the previous job or during the unemployment period) (Table 3).
These synchronic elements reveal an important difference in terms of the generosity of financial compensation.
In terms of marketisation, our comparative results show that the will to promote NPM methods was hindered by traditional governance schemes. Yet, attempts to foster public/private cooperation were initiated. So far, only the UK has clearly developed marketisation. As observed, each country tackles contractualisation to various extents. Here again, policymakers seem to agree on the need to rethink the ‘social contract’ between the unemployed and the state. However, the several changes that occurred over the past decade regarding the modes of contractualisation and the nature of sanctions, benefits and so forth, along with the difficult implementation of some sanctions, demonstrate that this promoted trend is still under strong debate in several countries.
Hence, it shows that activation-friendly integration policies are acknowledged and that attempts are being made to fit into these dynamics. Yet, AFI policies require considerable changes and thus time to be settled and implemented.