Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2001, page 41-55.
Activation in the European Union
Empowerment or enforced emancipation?
Rik van Berkel
Activation is the new core objective of social policies in the European countries. Increasingly, governments of the countries in the European Union are of the opinion, that social policies should realise the objective of preventing or combating exclusion by promoting participation rather than by offering income protection. This article explores this new trend in social policies and evaluated the inclusionary potential of active social policies on the basis of European research. The project’s main concern was with the inclusionary and exclusionary potentials of various types of work, ranging from regular labour-market participation to unpaid activities. The project’s results once again confirmed that simple dichotomies such as employment versus unemployment, inclusion versus exclusion, work versus non-work are inadequate starting points, both in social scientific analysis and in social policy design. With respect to their inclusionary and exclusionary potential, types of work offer various risk and opportunity structures: each type of work contains a potential for inclusion and for exclusion. These risk and opportunity structures are not; as it is sometimes seen, fully inherent to the nature of the type of work involved, but can be modified by social policies.
In the context of activation policies it is not enough to recognise the heterogeneity of work and the inclusion opportunities and exclusion risks types of work have. It is also important to recognise the heterogeneity of target groups of activation policies. Their situations, needs and circumstances differ considerably, which constitutes the basis for the conclusion that the success of activation policies lies finding the best possible match between clients’ needs and characteristics of types of work