Rethinking Activation. State-Subsidized Employment for Long-Term Unemployed Persons in Germany

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 10:45 AM-12:15 PM
105 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Philipp Ramos Lobato, Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany
Andreas Hirseland, Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany
One of the Welfare State’s core task is to control unemployment, to prevent and fight poverty and thus to guarantee participation as a fundamental civil right. In post war Germany, as in other European countries, provisional policies seeking to compensate job-losses and securing achieved status were in common. It is only lately that activation policies gained ground, commonly known as “Hartz Reform” which encompasses a bundle of labor market and social policy reformations, bringing Germany closer to liberal Welfare systems like the U.S. and the U.K. At bottom these reforms aim at fostering citizens’ self-responsibility in overcoming unemployment and material hardship. Accordingly the reasons for unemployment are considered rather a structural problem but as a result of an individual lack of willingness to work, including the refusal of lower wages and of jobs inappropriate to one’s qualification. Therefore measures established through the ‘Hartz Reform’ aim at developing employability, which involves addressing alleged deficiencies in individuals’ values and motivation directed at (even precarious) employment while cutting down benefits to a lower level.

Some results of the scientific evaluation of ‘Hartz IV’ query activating labor market policy in two ways, namely indicating limits of activation policy in practice as well as boundaries of its normative grounding. This holds especially for its capacity to fight long-term unemployment, since after ten years of activation policy their number quite constantly amounts to about one million. Substantially empirical findings demonstrate that long term unemployment is only rarely caused by a lack of motivation rather than being the result of circumstances beyond one’s willingness to work. To a greater degree one can find impairments concerning one’s ability to work: e.g. lack of educational and vocational training, physical and mental illness, being too aged, immigration background or obligations to (child-) care – all of them strongly preventing matches on the labor-market and thus make it unlikely to overcome welfare dependency. Moreover two-thirds of unemployed who receive welfare benefits due to their long-term unemployment meet two and more of these attributes.

Regarding those beneficiaries who will hardly find a job on the regular labor-market is a reason to rethink activation policies as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Considering this particular situation one strand in German’s politics takes up again the idea of state-subsidized employment which has lost credits with the rise of activation policy. According to the German sociologist Ulrich Beck this strategy could help to promote the social inclusion for persons with (very) low chances on the labor-market and as a side-effect strengthen social cohesion. Against this background the presentation focuses on empirical findings that could proof the positive effects of state-subsidized employment on social inclusion and participation. Based on these empirical findings it will be discussed how the modern Welfare State might cope with the challenge of social exclusion threatening not only long-term unemployed but society itself.