Policy Study

01/09/2023

Activation strategies in the EU before and after the COVID-19 pandemic

Activation policies have been subject to an ongoing debate regarding their purpose, effectiveness, and potential unintended consequences. Traditionally, activation is understood as policies aimed at removing barriers to employment and strengthening the connection between social protection and work life. Critics argue that activation can serve as a disguise for deregulation policies, placing excessive emphasis on individual responsibility for unemployment rather than considering macroeconomic factors. 

The revival of activation policies today seems indeed to have less to do with the idea of fighting an ‘unemployment sclerosis’, considered typical of European economies, than with addressing new challenges linked to changing demographics, new social aspirations, and major industrial transformations.

This study accordingly reviews the extent to which the nature of activation reforms enacted in National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) differed from the trajectory of reforms engaged before the pandemic and attempts to answer the following questions:

  • Compared to the activation policies enacted in the last two decades, is there a ‘quality jump’ in activation policies included in national recovery plans? 
  • What are the actors involved in adopting new plans, and to what extent can they support policy design and implementation? 
  • Have EU institutions become more supportive of productivity-enhancing labour support? 

We observe that the Recovery and Resilience Facility helped trigger, in some cases, and amplify, in others, essential welfare recalibrations. 

This policy study is part of the Recovery Watch series of publications. The Recovery Watch is a research that monitors the Recovery and Resilience Facility and assesses its social impact in different countries. Led by FEPS, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Institut Emile Vandervelde (IEV), in collaboration with several first-rate research organisations.

Network
European University Institute (EUI)
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Institut Emile Vandervelde (IEV)
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