Accepted Paper:

Reforming the welfare state through active employment policies: the role of the third sector  


Francisco Arqueros (University of Almeria, Spain)

Paper short abstract:

Two features of Welfare Reform are the implementation of Active Employment Policies and privatisation by handing management to the Third Sector. During this process, NGOs managing social programs adopt the taken for granted hegemonic ideology of neoliberalism.

Paper long abstract:

In the 1990s, EU governments started to favour Active Employment Policies over passive ones to tackle unemployment. During this process, the Welfare State has not been dismantled nor has significantly shrunk in the EU; rather, it has changed its character. In this article, I focus on one of the aspects of this change: a process of privatisation by a progressive handing of management to the third sector, in a context of structural unemployment and labour market reform.

The present case study examines how a Local Assembly of the Spanish Red Cross, an "impartial, neutral and independent organisation" that bases its work on the Geneva Conventions of 1949, came to assume the role of the state in implementing Active Employment Policies. These policies reinforced the hegemonic ideology of neoliberalism regarding the self, which hallmarks are independence and self-responsibility, in a context of welfare reform, economic austerity, and devaluation of labour. Despite their intentions, these policies did not produce equal individuals before the market; rather, they reproduced social stereotypes between groups of immigrant and local workers at the lower end of the labour market. Different groups of workers, according to ethnicity, were categorised as fit for certain types of jobs while excluded from others, determining their incomes and social status. Therefore, they contributed to the production of difference.

Fieldwork data were collected through participant observation in the Employment Program of the Spanish Red Cross in a town in Southern Spain between January 2015 and June 2016.

Panel RM-SPK09
Everyday neoliberalism