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Citizenship and Humanisation of the Public Sector

Tailored approach or inequality – effects of different welfare regimes (completed)

  • Period: 2018-2019
  • Status: completed

Since a number of years, municipal authorities in the Netherlands have been given more freedom to determine their own welfare policy. According to the state government, this should benefit the welfare recipients. A policy that is more responsive to local circumstances should help municipal authorities to tailor their services and support, which should expedite people’s return to paid employment. This research project (2018-2019) examined the questions: What differences have actually arisen as a result of this policy? And how do the welfare recipients view these differences? 

Description

The implementation of the Participation Act in 2015 has given municipal authorities a considerable measure of policy freedom (and policy responsibility). The goal is to facilitate tailored approaches at the local level and hence to achieve more effective policy, which should help people transit more quickly from welfare to paid employment. There is however no picture of the differences that have arisen between municipalities as a result, to what extent these differences can be justified, and to what extent welfare recipients feel that these differences are just. The project mainly focuses on four themes in terms of which municipal policies can diverge: the required return effort by the recipients; earning money on the side; enforcement; and special assistance.


The Participation Act aims to activate people receiving welfare, both by imposing more obligations (such as the obligatory return effort) and by awarding more rights (for instance an easing of the requirements for special assistance). A more flexible approach to ancillary earnings (‘on the side’) can also be considered. A combination of many obligations and many rights is referred to as an activating regime (Tonkens 2009). Given the spirit of the law, the activating regime is likely to be the dominant regime in Dutch municipalities.


However, three other types of welfare regimes can be distinguished, based on different ratios between obligations and rights:


  • A facilitating regime is characterised by many rights (like an activating regime), with generous benefits and the option to earn extra on the side, combined with few obligations, such as a voluntary return effort with the right to support in finding a suitable return effort.
  • A sanctioning regime is on the opposite side of the spectrum from a facilitating regime, as it applies many obligations but offers few rights. Here, a return effort is obligatory and this obligation is strictly enforced. There is also little right to support in finding a suitable return effort. There is little to no chance of being granted special assistance or the option to earn extra on the side.
  • A laissez-faire regime is characterised by few rights and few obligations. There is a limited right to special assistance and earning extra on the side is not a right, but is also not prohibited. The return effort is voluntary, but people are not entitled to support in finding  a return effort.

Municipal authorities may apply different regimes to different groups. For example: a laissez-faire regime may be applied to elderly welfare recipients, on account of the scarcity of available jobs, while a sanctioning regime is applied to young people.


The research comprised three analysis phases. First, a policy analysis was conducted to identify the different regimes. Next, the effectiveness of each regime was examined using statistics collected by Statistics Netherlands. Finally, the research results were analysed to determine to what extent a (legal) framework can be found, supported by all municipalities, that leaves room for both tailored approaches and justifiable differences. 

Researchers

Prof. Evelien Tonkens
Dr. Thomas Kampen

Dr. Melissa Sebrechts

Results

The main results were presented in a magazine in late 2019. This publication included an interview in Trouw newspaper, a number of columns by the researchers, and a chapter from the book Werk aan de winkel, published by the scientific department of the GroenLinks political party. 


PDF-bestandDownload the magazine


The results can be summed up in 5 conclusions, elaborated further in the magazine:

  1. There is no overview.
  2. Welfare regimes: no impact on a sense of justice.
  3. Tailored approach: just per individual, but unjust per municipality.
  4. Welfare is mainly perceived as a gift or exchange, not so much as a right.
  5. Conditionality leads to negative emotions toward other welfare recipients.

Contact

Prof. Evelien Tonkens, E.Tonkens@UvH.nl.

        Since a number of years, municipal authorities in the Netherlands have been given more freedom to determine their own welfare policy. This research project (2018-2019) examined the questions: What differences have actually arisen as a result of this policy? And how do the welfare recipients view these differences?