Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 3 2001, page 7-28.
Søren Peter Olesen
The article focuses on the street-level of Danish labour market policy implementation. It analyses 32 talks at employment offices between employment officials and unemployed union members about individual action plans for the unemployed. According to a major labour market reform in 1994, Danish labour market policy was regionalised and individualised. The reform represented a shift from ‘welfare’ to activation and ‘workfare’. Individual action plans are supposed to balance individual wishes and qualifications of the unemployed with the requirements on the labour market.
The talks were analysed as public encounters, framed by policy implementation, service-seeking and institutional interaction. The main results of the research were that talks about activation in spite of similarities associated with the asymmetry of institutional interaction are characterised by a considerable amount of diversity and ambiguity. For instance unsatisfactory compared to satisfactory talks were characterised by more linguistic dominance and less protection of face as well as by the absence of professional counselling and guidance methods on behalf of the officials and a more humble attitude on behalf of the unemployed. The officials were divided into two types: A professional and communicatively oriented versus a routinising and administratively oriented type. Among the unemployed a distinction was made between unemployed with an object status and unemployed acting as subjects well aware of their rights. Based on these types the talks were categorised in four types: cooperation, helping relations, fights and compliance.