Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN26_02: Labour administration and activation policies
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Kjetil Grimastad Lundberg, Western Norwegian University of Applied Sciences
Location: GM.328
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Dare more Autonomy in Job Placement? Barriers and Belongings in Contractual Relations between Job Seekers and Job Centres

Carolin Freier, Monika Senghaas

Institute for Employment Research, Germany

Under the label of activation policy, European welfare states developed between different paths of workfare and enablement. In the German public employment service, an important element of this activation policy is a public law contract between job seekers and job centres. The so-called integration agreement defines what benefits the unemployed receive for integration into work, what efforts they should make themselves and how these can be proven. Moreover, the agreements inform about financial sanctions imposed if job seekers fail to meet their obligations. On the one hand, the binding form of a contract allows job seekers to have a voice in the process. On the other hand, it is a power asymmetric situation with limited bargaining power of the job seekers. The presentation examines the barriers and belongings that characterise the contractual relationship between job seekers and job centres.

The Institute for Employment Research conducted a field experiment: In the years 2017-2018, on the options to sanctions integration agreements varied in participating employment agencies. Empirically, the presentation draws on qualitative data from this field experiment: semi-structured interviews and group discussions with caseworkers as well as participatory observations of counselling interviews with subsequent interviews of both contracting parties.

The presentation shows barriers in the contractual relationship for both case managers and job seekers. The analysis further indicates that the quality of membership in contractual relations depends on whether caseworkers assign the attribute of a “motivated unemployed person” to job seekers. Overall, the results suggest that increased autonomy for job seekers and caseworkers may strengthen the cooperative and supportive aspects of the integration agreement as well as social policy.

Job Search Requirements, Unemployment Duration, Job Related Concessions and the Reform of Welfare in Germany

Bernhard Christoph, Torsten Lietzmann

Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Germany

The German welfare reforms of the early 2000s constituted a major effort to modernize one of the key pillars of the German welfare system. In the course of these reforms, the government introduced the Unemployment Benefit II (UBII) as a new, means tested, basic welfare measure that the unemployed receive if there are not or no longer entitled to unemployment insurance benefits.

A particular characteristic of the UBII is that the unemployment administration expects unemployed recipients to accept job-offers that—in comparison to their former job—carry several disadvantages. This builds on the assumption that being less selective regarding future employment should improve employment chances. We test this assumption using a unique administrative data set. As these data include detailed longitudinal information on unemployment and job-search spells, we are able to detect changes regarding the job searched for within spells of unemployment. This allows us to analyze recipients’ chances to regain paid employment and whether making job related concessions improves these chances. Doing so, we can operationalize concessions using occupation-based indicators (e.g. required qualification) from recipients actual job search histories and not (as in most of the literature) based on hypothetic survey questions (e.g. on reservation wages).

While our analyses find no positive effect of making concessions on reemployment chances, searching a different job (that not necessarily implies a concession) has a substantial and positive effect. Thus, it appears that being generally flexible regarding one’s future occupation might be more important for reemployment chances than accepting less qualified employment.

The Role of Knowledge in Social Policies: Providing Access or Creating Barriers?

Carlotta Mozzana

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Italy

The contribution addresses the issue of the role of knowledge in social policies, with a focus on the deployment of numbers in accessing them. The paper is divided in two parts. In the first one, the conditions that have contributed to push the use of quantification tools in every stage of the policy process are analysed and a theoretical toolbox that can help to investigate the role of numbers and indicators in governing public policy is developed. The second part is devoted to the analysis of quantification tools in active labour market policies, where those instruments are widely used in order to allow policy administrators to distinguish among different levels of risk in individuals approaching the labour market. A recent case study is here presented: the national profiling system adopted in Italy in fulfilment of Youth Guarantee, a European public policy whose aim is to support young Neets (individuals that are currently not in employment education or training) entering the labour market via dedicated services. The contribution will show how, instead of providing young persons with highly tailor-made projects, the use of a quantification tool to regulate the access to services and economic support not only standardises the personal paths, but also perpetuates the most fragile Neets’ disadvantage, while at the same time it contributes to the process of depoliticization of public action.

Enabling Dimensions In Evidence-based Collaboration Practices Of Activation Workers And Mental Health Professionals

Vidar Bakkeli

Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

Literature on active labour market policies (ALMP) have focused on disciplining dimensions of activation and social security, such as increased conditionality and sanctions. Less attention has been given to enabling dimensions such as counselling and support practices in activation services, implementation of more holistic and tailor-made approaches, as well as the role of cross-sectoral collaboration, networks and service integration. Knowledge about these dimensions is important in order to solve wicked social problems related to inclusion, marginalisation, unemployment and health.

Using qualitative data collected in two municipalities in Norway in 2017-2018, this paper explores how frontline activation workers and mental health professionals reflect on enabling, supportive as well as disciplining elements in their follow-up and treatment practices. These professionals participate in an evidence-based supported employment model called Individual Placement and Support (IPS), aimed at unemployed people with moderate to severe mental health illness. User orientation, integrated services and individualized follow-up are central principles in the model, and IPS is currently being implemented in a growing number of labour and welfare administration offices and municipalities in Norway.

The paper contributes to the literature on ALMP, activation and welfare services in several ways. First, it shows how frontline professionals’ reflects on supportive, enabling and disciplining elements in their practice. Second, it explores how the evidence-based model influence and change professional practice. Third, it identifies tensions between professional practice, manual requirements and the organizational implementation context.

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