Panel Paper: A Street-Level View of Social Reform: Lessons From the International Workfare Project

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 10:25 AM
DuPont Ballroom F (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Evelyn Z. Brodkin, University of Chicago
Over the past 15 years, workfare and labor market activation policies have become a familiar part of the policy repertoire in countries around the world.  In a sense, these policies may be understood as part of a global workfare project, one that seeks to increase labor market participation and reduce participation in social benefit programs. But this project is far from uniform, and its development has followed different paths in different countries. This paper brings insights from international research on workfare and activation policies to bear in assessing the current state of this global project. It presents findings from a collaborative project involving research in six countries: the US, UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, and Germany. The project differs from much of the comparative policy research in this area.  It adopts the distinctive perspective of street-level organizational analysis in order to probe beyond formal policy features and common administrative metrics, investigating how workfare policies really work on the ground.  This research reveals the critical role of new governance and managerial reforms in shaping the workfare project's evolution, highlighting the often hidden ways in which they systematically influence policy delivery and front-line discretion. This paper brings a comparative perspective to analysis of organizational dynamics and their policy implications.