Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger
Chapter 10: Cultures of Activation: The Shifting Relationship between Income Maintenance and Employment Promotion in the Nordic Context
Bjørn Hvinden INTRODUCTION Culture and activation are both elusive concepts with diﬀerent meanings. Core elements of culture are shared values, norms and perceptions of reality. As a ﬁrst approximation, activation refers to the idea that income maintenance and employment promotion should be linked to each other. Income-maintenance provision ought to be used to stimulate labour market participation, instead of being seen as an alternative to such participation (Hvinden, 1999; Drøpping et al., 1999). The rationale for activation is that it is better both for the individual and society that the individual be ‘active’ (employed) rather than ‘passive’ (solely receiving public income transfers). This rationale may for instance be expressed when the granting of social assistance is linked to eﬀorts to stimulate recipients to ﬁnd paid work. These eﬀorts can involve providing job counselling, guidance, training or other measures to improve employability, requiring recipients to take part in such measures, or setting other forms of conditions for continued receipt of money. The term ‘culture of activation’, however, suggests something more and wider than the enforcement of an activation rationale in one or a few parts of a country’s social protection system. I propose that the concept ‘activation culture’ should be reserved for situations where an activation rationale characterizes the overall policy eﬀort and where we ﬁnd this rationale expressed in more or less all parts of the country’s social protection system for people of working age. The idea of activation should be widely accepted, institutionalized...
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