The French Strategy against Unemployment: Innovative but Inconsistent


“Activation” has not been a very commonly used concept in France — except, of course, for the small group of scholars and administrators who are directly concerned with it, and those who have learnt from the Europeanised vocabulary. Very often, even within this small epistemic community, the term will be applied to a varying and fuzzy group of programmes, according to the normative judgments of the concept’s users: some will separate “social activation” from other activation strategies, while others prefer “workfare” as an equivalent. Thus, as “activation” is not a legal term, French legal doctrine makes no reference to it in the field of (un)employment and ignores the meaning it has retained in this context. The term is nevertheless used by legal specialists in the sense of activation of financial resources (activation de moyens financiers): in this context it refers to the use of funds that have other initial objectives for fostering employment.1 Hence, activation exists, but not as a legal concept; nevertheless, legal rules do in fact initiate, influence and govern “activation.” ‘Activation’ in the perspective of the transformation of a particular sector, but more broadly, the spotting of cross-sectoral dynamics affecting the whole system of social protection, is not only about the limited area of social protection and labour law catering for the unemployed and especially the ‘long-term unemployed;’ it can be considered as a one among many dimensions of the restructuring tendency affecting all parts of the systems of social protection with varying incidence according to clusters of the ‘welfare regimes’ but also to specific areas of social protection.2 But, in taking a legal approach, it is important to realise that various branches of law are directly or indirectly concerned, ranging from labour and social law to tax law and even family law (see below). Yet, in using the term ‘activation’, we have generally made a clear distinction between labour law flexibilisation, on the one hand, and reform of benefits on the other.


Labour Market Unemployment Insurance Social Partner Employment Contract Unemployed Person 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Centre d’économie de la Sorbonne (équipe Matisse)The University Paris 1 (Panthéon Sorbonne)France
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Foreign and International Social LawMünchenGermany

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