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  • Author or Editor: Katharina Zimmermann x
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Employment Policies Across Europe

This book reviews how local social and employment policy fields react to the European Social Fund (ESF) to determine the role of the ESF in local activation policies. Drawing on both sociology and political science literature on welfare state reforms, the author examines what shapes local policy reactions to ESF and what effects these reactions have on change in local policy fields.

Comparing data from 18 local case studies across 6 European countries, and deploying an innovative mixed-method approach, the book presents comparative evidence on everyday challenges in the context of the ESF and discusses how these findings are applicable to other funding schemes.

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Chapter 6 unravels the contextual conditions enabling the three different response-patterns – 1) no usage, no change. 2) usage without change, and 3) usage and change – described in the previous chapter. The chapter presents in a fist step the results of formal QCA-analyses, which reveal a number of relevant conditions both for usage (e.g. administrative capacity or political stability), and for change (e.g. cognitive engagement or public support structures). The results are then summarised in a preliminary typology of local responses to the ESF, describing specific contextual settings for each of the three patterns.

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Chapter 7 takes up the formal results from chapter 6 on the contextual settings behind the three response-patterns and discusses them in light of case-knowledge. Here, more in-depth insights on the contextual conditions illustrate on the basis of the empirical material how the different conjunctions of conditions unearthed in chapter 6 work in practice. For instance, it is shown how local actors in some cases perceive the ESF as a burden due to high co-financing and administrative overload, how in other local cases actors are attracted by the conceptual freedom of the funding, or how usage of the ESF becomes normalised in the context of public interventions in some cases. Chapter 7 uses the insights from the case studies to unravel the broader empirical pictures behind the contextual settings of the three response-patterns.

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Chapter 8 departs from the empirical findings presented in chapter 6 and 7 and develops an empirically-grounded typology of local responses to the European Social Fund in the field of social and employment policies. The three major empirical patterns of how local policy fields deal with the ESF and under which conditions they do so, are discussed in turn. The first type refers to the so-called ‘refuseniks’; cases where local social and employment actors experienced the ESF more as a burden than as a welcome financial gift. In the second type, it was observable that actors with clear and pre-defined own ideas used the ESF-funding to finance these ideas. Such ‘cream skimmer’ cases did not experience significant change of their local policy fields through the ESF. In the third type (the ‘transformers’), this was clearly different: here, local social and employment policies were strongly shaped by the ESF. Chapter 8 discusses to what extent these types can be (contingently) generalised to other cases in Europe and beyond, and what the implications of the findings are for theoretical debates in the field of Europeanisation.

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Chapter 9 concludes the book by summarizing the main arguments and findings, by highlighting the main limitations and conclusion, and by discussing broader implications for EU policies. The chapter recapitulates the three types of local responses to the ESF and argues that these findings shed innovative light on Europeanisation studies, as they show that usages of European resources and EU-induced change are two different phenomena, that the subjective perception of local actors need to be taken into account, that the character of the ESF as an integrated governance tool deserves greater attention in research, and that a de-nationalised perspective can be highly fruitful and helps to overcome the still persistent methodological nationalism in Europeanisation and welfare state research. Chapter 9 furthermore argues that the the study’s findings do not suggest greater accountability and stricter implementation procedures for the ESF as policy lessons, but that the role of the local level and its interaction with the EU should be strengthened and politicised, hence transforming the existing ‘bypasses’ into main routes of Europeanisation.

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Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the overall research interest of the book: the role EU funding plays in local social and employment policies. Departing from a European perspective and taking the ESF (– which has turned from a relatively small and unconditional financing tool into a powerful and complex governance instrument; meant to back up EU social and employment policy – as a crucial case for financial incentives in multilevel setups, the study asks how local entities in different European countries react to the European money and how they are shaped by it. The introduction outlines in which way this question is addressed in the course of the study and how the book is structured.

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Chapter 2 discusses the characteristics of and the relationship between European and local social and employment policies. It starts with an overview on EU cohesion policy and characterises the ESF as a specific governance tool which nowadays combines financial, programmatic and procedural aspects in a unique manner. In a second step, the chapter discusses the crucial role of the local level in current activation policies. Chapter 2 argues that the local level deserves specific attention and should not be subsumed under national welfare systems. Furthermore, the streamlined EU cohesion policy and particularly the ESF establish a stronger direct link between the European and the local level and confront local actors with new opportunities and challenges.

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Chapter 3 draws on the perspective towards the local level developed in chapter 2 and discusses how local responses to EU policies tools can be grasped conceptually. By building particularly on the political-science Europeanisation literature and on sociological field approaches, a specific bottom-up perspective will be presented which puts analytical emphasis on the local contextual conditions. The main argument is that local contexts shape the way how actors respond to the ESF as a financial opportunity, and how this shapes local labour market policies. The Europeanisation literature and the field approach provide the background for the development of conditional hypotheses to be tested empirically in later chapters.

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In chapter 4, the particular epistemological aspects of the study’s research programme as well as its actual methodological approach and the database are outlined. As sketched out in chapter 3, the study adopts a conditional perspective towards the local context as a crucial factor in shaping local responses to the ESF. For analysing the role of contextual conditions, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) is used in the study, and its main features are described in chapter 4. Furthermore, the chapter provides insights into the research design, data gathering and data processing.

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Chapter 5 presents insights how local responses to the ESF look like, both in a qualitative and descriptive manner, and in a more formalised, quantified way. In a first step, the chapter presents descriptive snapshots how usages of Europe look like in the empirical reality and then illustrates the situation across the 18 local cases. The same is done for ESF-induced change. In a final step, the chapter draws a comparative picture of local patterns of usage and change. Here, three different configurations of usage and change stand out empirically: cases where no usage and no change was observed, cases with usage but no change, and cases with both usage and change.

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