Bringing the Jobless into Work? An Introduction to Activation Policies


The general trend towards activation has been one of the major issues in recent welfare and labour market reforms in Europe and the US. In many of these countries this issue has dominated the socio-economic and legal debate. Despite considerable variation across national models with respect to the scope and intensity of activation, it is evident that redefining the link between social protection and labour market policies on the one hand and employment on the other has been a common issue in labour market reforms.

At first sight, activation is a compellingly simple idea. For people of working age, doing something useful – especially working – is much better than sitting out time on a public benefit, however generous or meagre it may be. This is certainly desirable for better social cohesion, solidarity and the long-term viability of welfare states and public budgets. It is probably this straight-forward normative idea that is responsible for the widespread appeal and success of policy measures introduced under the label of activation.

From an economic point of view, the shift to activating labour market policies is often portrayed as a necessary response to high levels of structural unemployment. However, such changes are more than a mere technical adjustment of welfare programmes to a changing economic climate. They represent new ideas about the goals of public policy and the social rights of citizenship reflecting a departure from the ideas and goals of the post-war welfare state (Cox 1998).


Labour Market Welfare State Activation Policy Unemployment Insurance International Labour Organisation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Clark AE, Oswald AJ (1994) Unhappiness and Unemployment. Economic Journal 104: 648-659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Clarke J, Gerwirtz S, McLaughlin E (eds.) (2000) New Managerialism, New Welfare? Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Clasen J, Clegg D (2006) Beyond Activation: Reforming European Unemployment Protection Systems in Post-Industrial Labour Markets. European Societies 8 (4): 527-553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cox RH (1998) From Safety Net to trampoline: Labor Market Activation in the Netherlands and Denmark. Governance 11 (4): 397-414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Esping-Andersen G (1990) The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Förster M, Mira d’Ercole M (2005) Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Counties in the Second Half of the 1990s. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Paper 22. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  7. Giddens A (1998) The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy. Policy Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Green-Pedersen C, Hemerijck A, van Keersbergen K (2001) Neo-Liberalism, Third Way or What? Journal of European Public Policy 8 (2): 307-325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hall PA (1993) Policy-Paradigms, Social Learning and the State: The Case of Economic Policy Making in Britain. Comparative Politics 25 (3): 275-296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hemerijck AC (2005) Joining Forces for Social Europe. Reasserting the Lisbon imperative of “double engagement” and more (Lecture to the Conference “Joining Forces for a Social Europe”, organised under the German Presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2007, in Nuremberg, 8/9 February 2007). BMAS, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  11. Layard R (2005) Happiness. Lessons from a New Science. The Penguin Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Meyers M, Glaser B, MacDonald K (1998) On the Front Lines of Welfare Delivery: Are Workers Implementing Policy Reforms. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 17 (1): 1-22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pierson P (1994) Dismantling the Welfare State? Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Pierson P (2001) Coping with Permanent Austerity: Welfare State Restructuring in Affluent Democracies. In: Pierson P (ed.) The New Politics of the Welfare State. Oxford University Press, Oxford: pp. 410-456Google Scholar
  14. Trubek D, Mosher J (2003) New Governance, Employment Policy and the European Social Model. In: Zeitlin J, Trubek D (eds.) Governing Welfare and Work in a New Economy: European and American Experiments. Oxford University Press, Oxford: pp. 33-58Google Scholar
  15. Van Berkel R, Hornemann Moller I (2002) Active Social Policies in the EU. Inclusion Through Participation? Policy Press, BristolGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)BonnGermany
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Foreign and International Social LawMünchenGermany
  3. 3.Department of International Comparison and European IntegrationInstitute of Employment Research (IAB)NurembergGermany
  4. 4.The University of FuldaGermany

Personalised recommendations