A new book examined the reforms in activation policies in the United States of America and eight European countries (the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, France, Portugal, and the Czech Republic). It said there had been two key trends during the ten years to 2010 (a strengthened role for the market in the governance of activation, and greater individualization of service delivery) and that the sovereign debt crisis in Europe had led to further reforms.
Source: Ivar Lodemel and Amilcar Moreira, Activation or Workfare? Governance and the neo-liberal convergence, Oxford University Press
An article compared employed and unemployed job-seekers in their individual characteristics, preferences over working hours, job-search strategies, and employment histories. Systematic differences were found, which persisted over the business cycle. These results were consistent with a segmented labour market in which employed and unemployed job-seekers were unlikely to directly compete with each other for jobs.
Source: Simonetta Longhi and Mark Taylor, 'Employed and unemployed job seekers and the business cycle', Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Volume 76 Issue 4
A think-tank report said that jobcentres were failing to help people find long-term work and should be restructured. It said that the employment services element of the jobcentre remit should be mutualized and allowed to compete with the private and voluntary sectors and other public bodies, with the remaining part expanded and re-branded as Citizen Support to act as a central hub for accessing government services, and to target the specific needs of individuals. The report suggested that funding could then follow the individual claimant to the provider of choice, who would be paid by results.
Source: Guy Miscampbell, Joined Up Welfare: The next steps for personalisation, Policy Exchange
A report examined the impact of unemployment on health. It said that men were more likely to experience adverse health consequences than women, particularly those employed in temporary or unstable work and men with a lower socio-economic status. The report said that men were almost twice as likely as women to develop poor mental health as a result of unemployment, and that health could be a barrier to returning to, or maintaining a return to, paid work. It said that the work programme in the United Kingdom had not addressed the issues, and called for the development of new ways to support the health needs of this group.
Source: Jenny Gulliford, Damian Shannon, Tyna Taskila, David Wilkins, Martin Tod, and Stephen Bevan, Sick of Being Unemployed: The health issues of out of work men and how support services are failing to address them, Men's Health Forum/Work Foundation
An article examined the idea of 'inter-generational cultures of worklessness', which had been used to explain contemporary worklessness and to justify 'welfare' reforms. It drew on interviews with 20 families that had been workless over a long period in two cities (Glasgow and Middlesbrough).
Source: Robert Macdonald, Tracy Shildrick, and Andy Furlong, 'In search of "intergenerational cultures of worklessness": hunting the yeti and shooting zombies', Critical Social Policy, Volume 34 Issue 2
A report provided the baseline findings from a longitudinal study of the emerging consequences of benefit changes on working age social housing tenants in the south west of England. It said that tenants viewed the welfare reforms as a great uncertainty that could disturb their carefully managed, but limited, household budgets. The research had found that reforms led to cuts in income for almost half of the tenants interviewed, and were contributing to the growth of debt and rent arrears. Practical responses to financial pressures, included: reducing expenditure on food, utilities, and other household items; using savings; selling personal items; and asking family members for help. Tenants reported many difficulties in finding work, and the report said there was a general sense that the removal of the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax') was unfair. The report outlined some initial lessons for housing associations, government, and society. A second round of follow-up interviews was scheduled for April 2014.
Source: Anne Power, Bert Provan, and Eileen Herden, Work and Welfare Reform: Impacts in the South West, CASEreport 81, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (London School of Economics)
An article examined the major competing perspectives regarding the participation of unemployed people in Europe in undeclared work. These were: firstly, the 'marginalization' perspective, which held that unemployed people disproportionately participated in and gained from undeclared work; and secondly, the 'reinforcement' perspective, which held that unemployed people benefited less from undeclared work than those in declared employment, meaning that undeclared work reinforced, rather than reduced, the inequalities produced by the declared realm. Drawing on the 2007 Eurobarometer survey on undeclared work, the authors found that the marginalization perspective was applicable to southern Europe, and the reinforcement perspective to Nordic nations. However, in east-central Europe and western European nations, as well as the European Union as a whole, the marginalization and reinforcement perspectives were not mutually exclusive, but co-existed; unemployed people were more likely to participate in undeclared work, but received significantly lower earnings and gained less from undeclared work than those working undeclared who were in declared jobs.
Source: Colin Williams and Sara Nadin, 'Evaluating the participation of the unemployed in undeclared work: evidence from a 27-nation European survey', European Societies, Volume 16 Issue 1
A think-tank report called for fairer sanctions for non-compliance with the conditions attached to receipt of job seekers allowance in the United Kingdom. It estimated that nearly 5,600 claimants per month lost payment of benefits as a result of receiving a first 'lower tier' sanction violation which was then later overturned. The report recommended that first time sanctions should result in benefits being paid on a payment card for the duration of the sanction, which would need to be collected from the Jobcentre. It also recommended more punitive sanctions for those repeatedly breaching conditionality, and greater support for legitimate appeals.
Source: Guy Miscampbell, Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system, Policy Exchange
An article examined the 'soft skills' training given as part of a pre-employment training programme that aimed to prepare unemployed participants for work in telephone call centres. Drawing on participant observation and semi-structured interviews, and the concept of 'aesthetic' labour, the paper offered a critique of the programme and identified potential drawbacks.
Source: Julian Clarke, 'Pre-employment training for the unemployed: a case study of a call centre foundation programme', Local Economy, Volume 29 Number 1-2
A report evaluated the European Social Fund peer mentoring Wales project, which aimed to assist ex-substance misusers to enter employment or further learning. The report said that peer mentoring worked well and that evidence suggested that the work was better led by substance misuse experts than employment experts. It said the providers achieved almost all of the four-year targets set for the project (which had been revised downwards in 2010 in the light of changed circumstances such as the economic recession and the advent of the Work Programme), even when working with clients who were still using substances and/or prone to relapse. The report said that ten per cent of clients had entered employment, nine per cent had entered further learning, 14 per cent had gained a qualification, and 65 per cent had achieved at least one 'other positive outcome', such as completing a course or volunteering. The report made recommendations, including for the continuation of peer mentoring support provision.
Source: Mike Maguire, Katy Holloway, and Trevor Bennett, Evaluation of European Social Fund Peer Mentoring Wales, Welsh Government
The government responded to a report by a committee of MPs on the Work Programme in Wales.
Source: The Work Programme in Wales: Government response to the Committeeï¿½s Third Report of Session 2013ï¿½14, Fifth Special Report (Session 201314), HC 1035, House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee, TSO
A report by a committee of MPs said that Jobcentre Plus should continue to provide a public employment service for the unemployed, but key performance indicators should be immediately revised to incentivize more clearly the support of jobseekers into work, rather than merely removal from receipt of benefits. The report also said that the department should: formulate performance measures to promote sustained job outcomes; launch an independent review of the consistency, accuracy, and fairness of the application of conditionality and sanctions; and publish a comprehensive Local Support Services Framework by autumn 2014 to enable local authorities to design and commission services in time for the national roll out of universal credit.
Source: The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the Reformed Welfare System, Second Report (Session 201314), HC 479, House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, TSO
An article examined unemployment compensation programmes – unemployment insurance/assistance programmes and redundancy pay schemes – of welfare state/occupational welfare regimes in developed (OECD) countries. Southern European countries had compensation systems that were comparable in strength to those in continental-corporatist countries, if occupational welfare programmes – notably redundancy pay – were considered alongside welfare state programmes for unemployment protection.
Source: Umut Riza Ozkan, 'Comparing formal unemployment compensation systems in 15 OECD countries', Social Policy and Administration, Volume 48 Number 1