The high-quality academic books, upper-level student texts and journal articles on our Business, Management and Economics list offer fresh perspectives on the economy, the future of work and organisations, and the relationship between business and addressing global social challenges.
The list is home to a number of series including Organizations and Activism and Feminist Perspectives on Work and Organization, all of which are edited by leading scholars from the field, along with our journals in the area: Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice, Work in the Global Economy and Global Political Economy.
Business, Management and Economics
This concluding chapter reviews the key analytical threads and arguments of the book, returning to the concept of ‘double activation’ and tracing the interconnections (conceptually and at the level of street-level practice) between the quasi-market governance of employment services and workfarist activation. It reviews the key dynamics by which quasi-marketisation intensifies a street-level orientation towards enacting a more demanding, workfare-oriented activation model: through how it reconfigures the profile of organisations and people working at the frontline of service delivery (politics of professionalism), and through applying more intensive performance management accountability regimes that discipline street-level workers’ exercises of administrative discretion. Finally, the book concludes by assessing the evidence-base for a demanding, workfarist model of activation and the reasons why governments continue to favour ‘work-first’ strategies despite limited evidence of their effectiveness.
Since 2010, Ireland has followed a well-trodden path of extending the project of welfare reform beyond the activation of claimants to the ‘double’ activation of the organisations and frontline workers responsible for implementing active labour market policies on the ground. This chapter takes a closer look at ‘double activation’ as an analytical lens, and why the concept holds significance beyond describing the conjunction between the two tracks of welfare reform. What is it about the parallel unfolding of governance reforms of delivery organisations that is of wider interest to the shape of activation reform? The chapter also introduces the Governing Activation in Ireland study underpinning this book: the research design and how the study differed from previous studies of the impacts of marketisation on the frontline delivery of employment services. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the underlying conceptual linkages between workfare and marketisation, drawing attention to the theories of motivation they share and the ways in which they each involve a normative commitment to the commodification of claimants.
This introductory chapter situates the case study of Ireland that follows in the context of wider international welfare reforms. These include the social policy turn away from human capital development approaches towards a more demanding, workfare-oriented activation model, and the creation of quasi-markets in employment services. The chapter reviews these developments internationality while offering an analysis of the distinction between workfare and human capital development approaches to activation, as well as the variety of quasi-market models.
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This book assesses how the practice of contracting-out public employment services via competitive tendering and Payment-by-Results is transforming welfare-to-work in Ireland.
It offers Ireland’s introduction of a welfare-to-work market as a case study that speaks to wider international debates in social and public policy about the role of market governance in intensifying the turn towards more regulatory and conditional welfare models on the ground.
It draws on unprecedented access to, and extensive survey and interview research with, frontline employment services staff, combined with in-depth interviews with policy officials, organisational managers and jobseekers participating in activation.
The experiences of service-users and approaches of frontline staff showed that the model of support delivered under quasi-market conditions was distinctly more workfarist in orientation than the type of support that was provided by not-for-profit organisations in other parts of Ireland’s mixed economy of activation. So why did quasi-marketisation produce these policy effects? How did JobPath’s procurement model – competitive tendering, price-bidding, and performance-based contracting – spill over into organisational practices to adjust the balance between the enabling and demanding elements of activation? This chapter zooms out from the micro-level of caseworker-client interactions to consider issues of organisational dynamics and contracts’ recruitment practices and performance measurement regimes. In so doing, the chapter draws on the Irish case to engage with wider debates about the disciplining effects of managerialism and performance measurement on frontline discretion. It also offers a commentary on the ambiguous ‘professional’ status of activation work and the role of marketisation in contributing to the de-skilling and de-unionisation of employment services staff. The chapter develops the argument that marketisation reshapes agency at the street-level through both a politics of professionalism and politics of discretion
This chapter outlines how Ireland’s welfare system evolved from an ostensibly passive model with minimal conditionality to a sanctions-oriented, work-first model. Under OECD pressure to adopt a more ‘coercive’ model, payment rates were cut, eligibility conditions tightened, and sanctions introduced for non-compliance with new mutual obligations. This was paralleled by major governance reforms of operational services. The state-run employment service was replaced with an integrated benefits and employment service; Local Employment Services delivered by not-for-profit organisations became subject to tighter performance measurement; and a Payment-by-Results quasi-market was introduced to bolster capacity. The design features of JobPath are reviewed, and how it embedded market governance by organising service delivery through competitive tendering and performance-based contracting. This was in sharp contrast to the pre-existing network of Local Employment Services. However, besides these differences, the two otherwise coalesced in policy time and space. Both were targeted towards the same claimant cohorts and operated under the same activation policy setting. Thus, Ireland’s mixed economy of activation was essentially a natural policy experiment in the use of different governance modes to steer frontline delivery that the remainder of the book harnesses to assess whether and how marketisation changes the substance of policy delivery.
The Irish case offers a rare natural policy experiment for exploring the intersection between workfarist activation and welfare-to-work markets. This is due to the co-existence of two similarly targeted employment services programmes commissioned through distinct governance modes. Drawing on survey and interview research with frontline staff delivering JobPath and Local Employment Services, and with service-users participating in the programmes, this chapter explores how the two employment services differed in practice at the coalface of delivery. Formally, both services operated under the same activation policy setting. Yet, as detailed in this chapter, the two services differed in significant ways as to how they implemented this activation case management model. This was especially in relation to how they adjusted the balance between the demanding and enabling elements of activation: whether they prioritised a regulatory approach anchored in job-search conditionality and the enforcement of conduct conditions or focused predominantly on ‘employability building’ through education, training, and work experience. The interview and survey data provide robust evidence that a distinctly more workfarist approach was being enacted by the frontline workers delivering JobPath compared with how activation was being enacted by those delivering Local Employment Services.
This chapter takes as its starting point the three-decades-long growth of vertical, class-specific inequalities. At the bottom of the social hierarchy large social groups are forming who are excluded not only from regular gainful employment but also stripped of basic social and democratic rights; from the perspective of mainstream society, they simply appear ‘superfluous’. But how can this structural heterogeneity of social dislocations and disparities be conceptualized in a scientifically accurate and helpful way? It is obvious from countless debates that sociology and the social sciences currently lack adequate theoretical concepts and analytical tools to capture the confusing melange of social divisions, social polarization, widespread precarity and exclusion. This chapter attempts a step towards a resolution of this issue by considering the key concepts of ‘exclusion’ and ‘precarity’ in a way that carves out both their differences from and intersections with the concept of class.
This afterword draws together the content of the book by highlighting the relevance of studies of precarity in exploring contemporary social phenomena. It emphasizes the role of the theoretical approaches suggested in the book in understanding changes that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the transfer of risks to individuals, which are inherent in the public health response to the pandemic; extensive interventions of states into labour markets; claims of a withdrawal of workers from employment; the growing profile of digital technologies in organizing work; and the attempt by the precarious to establish new forms of agency and subjectivity.
Sociological research often suffers from an over-reliance on classification as an end in itself. The idea of ‘precarity’ is also susceptible to this problem. Precarity is often defined as a category, or state, which people can either be inside or outside. When this happens, the analysis risks understating the differences between people who are judged ‘precarious’, and overstating the differences between them and people who are not. By contrast, this chapter argues that the concept of precarity has value primarily when used to describe a situation or conjuncture. Based on a loosely Marxian methodological approach, and drawing on insights from empirical studies in social work and cultural work, it sketches out what it might mean to analyze precarity as a characteristic of a given conjuncture rather than a classificatory tool.