Insertion as an alternative to workfare: active labour-market schemes in the Parisian suburbs

Author (Person) , , , ,
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Series Details Volume 28, Number 4, Pages 326-341
Publication Date October 2018
ISSN 0958-9287 (print) | 1461-7269 (online)
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Many governments have tightened the link between welfare and work by attaching conditionality to out-of-work benefits, extending these requirements to new client groups and imposing market competition and greater managerial control in service delivery – principles typically characterized as ‘workfare’.

Based on field research in Seine-Saint-Denis, we examine French ‘insertion’ schemes aimed at disadvantaged but potentially job-ready clients, characterized by weak conditionality, low marketization, strong professional autonomy and local network control. We show that insertion systems have resisted policy attempts to expand workfare-derived principles, reflecting street-level actors’ belief in the key advantages of the former over the latter.

In contrast with arguments stressing institutional and cultural stickiness, our explanation for this resistance thus highlights the decentralized network governance of front-line services and the limits to central government power.

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