Producing new welfare spaces: local labour market policies in the UK and Denmark

Etherington, David (2004). Producing new welfare spaces: local labour market policies in the UK and Denmark. PhD thesis The Open University.



One of the significant features and characteristics of the 'post Keynesian' shift in the welfare state or settlement is the emergence of 'workfare' as a dominant policy regime. Workfare involves supply side economic and social policy in the management of the unemployed and reserve army of labour. Social benefits are increasingly conditional on the unemployed participating in employment and training programmes. These policies are related to a dominant neo liberal politics whereby the market, including 'employability' and work, is seen as a route out of social exclusion. The thesis explores this theme through a comparison of two diverse welfare systems - the UK and Denmark. Through a comparative analysis, the thesis explores how far workfare is in fact a new 'mode of social regulation' or constitutes just a key element of restructuring of the contemporary welfare state. Two central elements of welfare restructuring are explored. First relates to the decentralisation of policies to different spatial scales: localities, cities and regions. Two case studies are chosen, Sheffield (UK) and Aalborg (OK), to explore the dynamics of spatial resealing of welfare and the politics of geographical uneven development, revealing that the local is a site for innovation and adaptation and as a consequence plays a crucial role in mediating national policy production. Second, as welfare is a social construction, political agency and actors within welfare-work policy regimes such as trade unions, community and social movements are of central importance to contesting and negotiating workfare at different spatial scales, including the locality. The central argument of the thesis is that 'localisation' as such involves the production of new welfare spaces which is inherently contradictory, unstable, prone to crisis and contested. The research argues that an understanding of the role of the 'local' as such is of importance to any assessment of future welfare trajectories.

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