Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy

No 2005:20: Municipal activation policy: A case study of the practical work with unemployed social assistance recipients

Katarina Hjertner Thorén ()
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Katarina Hjertner Thorén: Växjö University, Postal: 351 95 Växjö, Sweden

Abstract: In the 1990s, many municipalities developed local activation programs for social assistance recipients as a response to increasing social assistance expenditures. This study investigates the practical implementation of municipal activation policies in two different activation programs, Jobbcentrum in Skärholmen and Källan in Osby. The purpose with the study is to highlight how the front-line workers systematically translate activation policy into practice in their interactions with the clients. The study utilizes a street-level bureaucracy perspective, which illuminates the role of bureaucratic and professional discretion and how institutional factors shape the practical responses of front-line staff. Coping behaviors at the ground influences the practical work with activation requirements. The staff develop such coping strategies to manage working conditions marked by ambiguous legislation, organizational pressures, limited resources, and little responsibility for program accountability. Findings from this study suggest that the implementation practices in Skärholmen and Osby frequently diverge from formal intentions of activation policy and the programs’ own goals and descriptions of their work.

Keywords: Municipal activation policy; social assistance; street-level bureaucracy theory; front-line workers; implementation; Jobbcentrum; Källan

JEL-codes: J60

71 pages, September 2, 2005

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