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From no work to work? The role of job placement and skills training services in assisting unemployment Benefit II recipients find work under Germany’s Hartz IV welfare reforms

Brady, Anne (2014) From no work to work? The role of job placement and skills training services in assisting unemployment Benefit II recipients find work under Germany’s Hartz IV welfare reforms. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis presents the results of a qualitative investigation of Unemployment Benefit II (UBII) recipients' experiences of skill training and job placement services under Germany's Hartz IV welfare reforms—arguably a (neo-) liberal intervention in the context of what has traditionally been described as a conservative-corporatist welfare regime. This thesis explores the experience of skills training and job placement services in terms of the degree to which these support mechanisms engage with UBII recipients’ needs and perceptions and how these necessarily reflect the purposes of the support and activation mechanisms (to provide support to and assist the long-term unemployed find work) and the underlying policy assumptions (that the long-term unemployed need to be made to demonstrate responsibility in finding work). The evidence presented suggests such services have not necessarily provided a route into regular employment. Instead the ‘support’ mechanisms tend to ‘busy’ the recipients; to be irrelevant to the recipients’ employment history and/or future interests; and not to match what recipients wish to, or are interested in, doing. Secondly, the policy rhetoric and design of the Hartz IV reforms implied, ostensibly, a shift with some cultural significance—from social solidarity to individual responsibility; from old (conservative) to new (neo-liberal) paternalism. The thesis examines UBII recipients’ perception of their ‘right’ to and ‘responsibility’ in finding work. The evidence suggests that popular discourse and understandings of the right to and responsibility in finding work in Germany are not so distinct or dissimilar from the Anglophone world. Finally, this thesis identifies a potential contradiction within the German government’s political objective of providing support (Fördern) to recipients in return for UBII recipients demonstrating responsibility (Fordern) in finding work. The findings suggest there is little need to make unemployed Germans feel ‘responsible’ for finding work. The demands placed on recipients to demonstrate to case managers that they are taking responsibility for finding work may undermine the recipient’s ability responsibly to look for work. And UBII recipients may ‘trick’ the system to meet these demands, ostensibly wasting the time and resources of Jobcenter staff and UBII recipients. This thesis concludes by arguing that Fördern and Fordern are ultimately not compatible within a policy framework. Where Fordern (demand/require) exists in conjunction with the threat of sanctions for non-compliance, there is too much of a chance that Fördern (support), in the form of job placement and skill training services, will be used to regulate the conduct of and discipline UBII recipients rather than provide legitimate support. Thus, any support provided starts to break down as soon as Fordern is inserted into the policy framework.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Anne Marie Elizabeth Brady
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Dean, Hartley and Mangen, Steen
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3077

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