Participation in the labour market has become a major public value in the EU and its member states over recent decades. Its promotion is seen as serving economic and social objectives: improving the competitiveness of European economies, increasing the flexibility of work organizations and strengthening social cohesion in European societies. Realizing these objectives, it is argued, is a shared responsibility of states, of work organizations and social partners, and of individual citizens. The nature and distribution of responsibilities in the pursuit of public values are not static; rather, redefining responsibilities and redistributing them among societal actors is an integral part of reform processes. Redefining and redistributing responsibilities is a highly political and contested activity. In the context of promoting labour-market participation this, for example, becomes clear in debates on the impact on social citizenship of transferring responsibilities for welfare and welfare arrangements from the state to individuals and families (see Gilbert 2002; Betzelt and Bothfeld 2011).
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