RECON Online Working Paper 2011/27

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Democracy, Inclusion and the Governance of Active Social Policies in the EU

Recent Lessons from Denmark, the UK and France


Mark Thomson (Europe Institute, University of Auckland)



Many European welfare states face challenges due to persistently high levels of unemployment. This paper discusses European responses to the tension between getting the jobless back to work and not undermining rights or the democratic legitimacy of policies. The consensus at the European level is to seek local solutions to unemployment to ensure that policy interventions are more responsive and sensitive to individual needs. The paper compares efforts to find local solutions in three distinct welfare-regime states: social-democratic Denmark, liberal UK and conservative France. Drawing on Amartya Senís capability approach and the ideas behind deliberative democracy, it asks if decentralising employment policies has achieved its normatively democratic objectives of empowering the individual unemployed (notably through a growth in more personalised interventions) and engaging a wider set of local policy actors (in the public, private and third sectors) in finding solutions to unemployment. In light of the three national case studies, the paper offers a critical discussion of the assumed benefits for social inclusion of decentralising the governance of activation. 



Active Social Policies ― Capability Approach ― Decentralisation ― Deliberative Democracy ― New Governance ― Social Inclusion ― Unemployment


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