Reciprocity Mechanisms and the Unemployed in Canada and abroad

Pascale Dufour, Alain Noël and Gérard Boismenu [ * ]



The methods and practices of reciprocity in social assistance are compared in six OECD countries. The literature from English-speaking countries tends to talk about workfare while Continental European literature uses the concept of conditionality. The authors employ the term “reciprocity” as a generic concept encompassing all of the programs that include forms of conditionality for assistance, as opposed to the unconditional provision of assistance or benefits. The authors put forth an interpretation of these variations by comparing their results with the existing body of work in comparative politics on the development of the various types of welfare states. The development of reciprocity mechanisms, therefore, follows neither a single logic, nor a series of pre-mapped paths determined by existing institutions. To understand and evaluate current experiences and innovations, each case must be carefully examined, taking into account all the constraints, but also the opportunities, created by a new era in the development of the Welfare State.

OVER THE LAST 10 years or so, the architecture and implementation of the social safety net for unemployed people have undergone profound change, to the extent that a verifiable welfare renaissance is under way in OECD countries.[ 1 ] These reforms are characterized by a narrowing of admission criteria, decentralization of program implementation and management and public addresses about the need to make benefits “active.” More important, we are witnessing a gradual redefinition of the role of social assistance.

Social assistance programs, which were supposed to fall by the wayside with the introduction of national social security systems, are instead becoming very important support mechanisms, even for those who are in a position to work. As a result, reciprocity mechanisms have been introduced that are more in keeping with a welfare paradigm. The active search for work has always been a component of unemployment insurance systems, but this notion is becoming simultaneously more specific and more widespread. Under various programs, recipients are increasingly expected to take specific actions. The nature of reciprocity mechanisms has thus changed, and now involves social programs that were largely exempt in the past.

New assistance programs are emerging that are specifically directed toward the unemployed and incorporate the reciprocity paradigm, either through the creation of new mechanisms (e.g., RMI in France) or through gradual change in the raison d’être of existing mechanisms (e.g., social assistance in Canada).

This article compares the methods and practices of reciprocity in social assistance in six OECD countries (Germany, Canada, Denmark, the United States, France and Great Britain). Our objective is twofold: first, to gauge institutional differences by demonstrating the diversity of existing forms of reciprocity; second, to provide an interpretation of these variations by comparing our results with the existing body of work in comparative politics on the development of the various types of welfare states.

Analysis of the reciprocity mechanism

Major concepts

The current discussion around reciprocity relates directly to a new principle of political action—the activation of so-called “passive” spending. From a rhetorical standpoint, this principle falls squarely within the ideal of the “active society,” as promoted by the OECD during the 1980s. Assistance policies, traditionally designed to guarantee individuals in need a minimum level of resources, are viewed as traps for recipients, who transform the income support into a poverty trap, imprisoning them in a relationship of dependency on the State. Active policies promote individual autonomy by enabling the unemployed to carry out activities in exchange for benefits. This mobilization of recipients is supposed to foster respect for human dignity and promote greater individual responsibility. It would also resolve the age-old issue of merit. Control of public finances and growing pressures on the cost of the social safety net have also led to the development of active measures that promote reciprocity in one form or another, which, it is believed, will shorten the period individuals remain on the welfare roll.[ 2 ]

The literature from Englishspeaking countries tends to focus on workfare while Continental European literature uses the concept of conditionality. We use the term “reciprocity” as a generic concept encompassing all programs that include forms of conditionality for assistance as opposed to the unconditional provision of assistance or benefits.

In its narrow sense, workfare is characterized by three elements: obligation, free labour and the principle of mutual responsibility. In this stringent version, the recipient has no choice but to participate, and has no voice in choosing the nature of that participation. In the event of non-conformity, the recipient simply loses the benefits. Here, the goal is essentially to dissuade requests for benefits by imposing mandatory work conditions. This form of workfare exists in certain US states and Canadian provinces, and applies to certain population categories in Great Britain.

The softer version of workfare involves the return of recipients to active life through labour force development, job creation and individual support rather than mandatory work.[ 3 ] In the English literature, this version, associated with human resource development,[ 4 ] operates on a voluntary basis and, ideally, is accompanied by support policies (e.g., child care, transportation assistance). Implementation involves the concerted action of several government departments and agencies and is framed in terms of respect for human rights. In concrete terms, two types of measures are favoured: so-called employability measures (including orientation, training and apprenticeship) and measures directed toward the job market (income supplements, community economic development and assistance to the selfemployed).

Literature from Continental Europe frames the discussion in terms of the conditionality of social assistance benefits. The idea of obligation is more problematic and vague,[ 5 ] and the discussion tends towards the softer approach to workfare in the English literature. The debate focusses on the concept of integration (professional or social) and relates the question of unemployment to that of social exclusion. This understanding has long prevailed in France, is growing in Ger-many, and is just emerging across Europe as a whole.[ 6 ] From this perspective, reciprocity is not so much justified by the dependency argument, but more on the need to integrate the unemployed into the work force, with a concern to preserving social cohesion. In contrast to workfare programs, which have the explicit goal of removing recipients from the welfare roll as quickly as possible, integration programs have more to do with political solutions that permit a better fit between the flexibility of the labour market and social assistance programs. In this case, public discussion tends to go beyond the debates on workfare that focus strictly on the individual.[ 7 ]

A wide range of sharply-contrasted analyses are superimposed on these geographic differences of interpretation of reciprocity, from promotion to denunciation, from technical assessments to more political and sociological analyses.[ 8 ] As Alain Noël has pointed out, the policies associated with reciprocity often tend to pursue contradictory goals, be it to modify the behaviour of the recipient, influence the market, reduce program costs or respond to the demands of voters.[ 9 ] To better grasp these various approaches, it is necessary to look at all of the relationships involved.

A comparison based on social relations

Reciprocity, as a mechanism that establishes duties in exchange for benefits, draws on the entire architecture of the social security safety net, from the role of the State, to the market, the domestic sphere and the community sector.[ 10 ]

The relationship established by reciprocity mechanisms between the user and public institutions varies widely, depending on whether the emphasis is placed on punishment or incentive, whether the relationship of obligation is one way (for instance, the stringent version of workfare) or mutual (for instance, the RMI mechanism), or whether mechanisms are put in place to “negotiate” activities. In other words, institutions and legal frameworks determine the nature of the relationship between the citizen-recipient and the social State. Our analysis focuses on two aspects of this relationship: formal equality through the more or less universal character of the programs and the reciprocity mechanisms, and the place given to the recipient in determining that reciprocity.

In relation to the labour market, a number of different goals may be pursued: professional integration, sustaining employability, direct reintegration into employment, as well as labour flexibility or downward pressures on wages. The distance maintained between the unemployed and employment, on the one hand, and the effects of reciprocity on the job market, on the other, help to define this second relationship.

Finally, reciprocity orients the recipient’s relationship with his or her social environment. Be it within the domestic sphere (obligation to provide support, whether family allowance is taken into account, housing subsidies) or the community sector (legitimizing participation outside the market), the nature of reciprocity comes into play. Similarly, social programs can have significant consequences for this social environment, whether they call for greater family or social solidarity, or involve greater individualization of social relations. The introduction of reciprocity can, for example, reduce the dependence of individuals on the State by transferring that dependence to other spheres, such as the family, friends or charitable organizations. This raises two lines of questions. The first has to do with the relationship established by the mechanisms of reciprocity with the family. What kinds of family models are promoted by these mechanisms? What is the role of the woman–mother–worker which is implicitly or explicitly underpinned by these reciprocity mechanisms? To what extent are the programs concerned with gender equality? The second line of questioning has to do with the relationship to the community. How does the territorialization (or decentralization) of social policy go hand in hand with the growing role of non-State actors in the management of social programs? What new difficulties are arising from this “transfer” of jurisdiction? By intersecting the results from these two spheres (family and community), we will see, in the last section, that the relationship of the recipient to his or her social environment differs widely from case to case.

By analyzing the conditions of reciprocity in each country, we can identify and compare the specific forms of reciprocity. Our proposed grid allows us a degree of relatively precise qualitative knowledge and a comparative method that does not serve as a classification tool, but instead proposes a three-dimensional framework in which to situate each country. Reciprocity is no longer simply considered from the perspective of the labour market, as is the case in much of the work on active policies, but is also re-examined in a framework which is both political (what is the meaning of reciprocity practices?) and social (what are the presumptions and consequences of these practices in relation to how unemployed people are treated?).

Choice of case studies

Using the classification most commonly employed in comparative analysis, we present three cases illustrating the residual liberal state (Canada, the United States and Great Britain), two corporatist cases (Germany and France), and one social democratic case (Denmark). While the comparative literature recognizes the differences among countries within the same category, a recent trend establishes a parallel between the British and American cases, based on the presumption that the American neo-liberal model has spread to other Englishspeaking countries. This presumption becomes more plausible when viewed through the lens of reciprocity policies because there seems to be a direct link between the policies of Tony Blair’s Great Britain and those of the United States under Bill Clinton.[ 11 ] We have chosen to verify this claim by analyzing two US states (California and Wisconsin), Britain and three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Ontario and Quebec) which, in some cases, reveal practices that are relatively distinct from those employed in the first two countries. Denmark serves as a counterpoint to the liberal model by proposing a significant “return to active life” that is not framed in terms of dependency on social programs. The German and French cases each propose their own middle road approach that broadens the political goals of reciprocity.

Reciprocity and institutional practices: two groups of countries

By deconstructing the nature of reciprocity and benefits destined for the non-insured unemployed in each country, we can pinpoint the nature of the links established between the citizen-recipient and the State defined by the various mechanisms of the social security net. Two major groups of countries are apparent.

In the first group of countries, reciprocity is applied in a relatively authoritarian manner for all recipients, and the primary goal is to reduce the costs to the State of offering protection to the unemployed. Canada, the United States and Great Britain correspond more or less to this profile. Major differences do, however, exist among these countries in the degree of universality with which reciprocity is applied, with Canada and Great Britain implementing a range of measures directed towards various target groups, while offering a much greater degree of accessibility to the welfare system.

If the trend persists in the United States, its social assistance program could very well disappear. In Great Britain, however, it is the employment insurance program that is hanging in the balance, with welfare becoming the primary mode of protection for the unemployed. Canada occupies a kind of middle ground with an insurance program that remains relatively open and a social assistance program that is being renewed in some provinces (e.g., Quebec) and eroded in others (e.g., Alberta). While the phenomenon of individuals receiving no assistance at all is very common in the United States, due to the high degree of specialization in its welfare program and the number of holes in the safety net, this phenomenon is virtually unheard of in Great Britain and rarely addressed in Canada.[ 12 ] It could, however, become a new distinguishing factor between these two countries, depending on the direction taken by provincial welfare systems and future government investment in employment measures.

In the second group of countries, reciprocity practices are relatively flexible. Some leeway is given to recipients in the implementation of reciprocity mechanisms, even if the conditions they are subject to are at times restrictive, and the primary political objective is to find one or more alternative forms of social assistance for the unemployed. The political will to reform the system often translates into a State role in developing employment policies, be it through direct job creation, support for jobs in and outside the market, or the sharing of existing jobs. Reforms are often synonymous with budget savings but do not result in the eradication of all protection. While the social safety net relied on by the unemployed may have become less generous over the years, what really stands out is the degree to which it has changed. France, Germany and Denmark are probably the countries where the relationship between the State and the citizen-recipient has changed the most. There has been a shift from financial coverage against the risk of unemployment, to differentiated coverage depending on the type of unemployment and sustained “guidance” offered the recipient. In contrast to the countries in the first group, the issue here is not so much getting recipients off social assistance, but integrating them into an activity, be it work, training or child care.

There are no major distinctions between Germany and France in the relationship established between the user and the State in the context of reciprocity. In stark contrast, Denmark is the only country that has uniformly applied reciprocity mechanisms to all recipients of welfare and unemployment insurance, while offering quality training that often results in long-term integration into the labour market. Denmark is also the only country that offers financial protection that is still relatively egalitarian, in comparison to the highly differentiated systems of Germany and France. But beyond the classic distinctions between the countries of Continental Europe and Scandinavia, it is important to identify what unites these countries, and distinctly sets them apart from the first group of countries. That unifying factor is their search for new political solutions enabling the Welfare State to adapt to new needs in a context of shrinking budgets. The significant development of employment policies (measures directed toward individuals as well as toward the job market), combined with real guidance for recipients, has produced a new form of social protection for the unemployed, based more on following the paths of recipients through time and increasing the types of support offered, than on short-term assistance, primarily in the form of monetary aid. It is also of note that this approach requires a less authoritarian and less punitive relationship with recipients, compared to the prevailing trend in Englishspeaking countries.

Reciprocity and the relationship with the job market: three groups of countries

During the 1990s, reforms to social assistance systems for the unemployed were driven by a key objective in Western countries. The goal was to render protection against unemployment that was more directly productive in relation to employment and a return to the labour market. This common concern among governments was motivated by a distinct perception of the causes of unemployment and was informed by a variety of political standards which cannot be reduced to a simple question of austerity.[ 13 ] The objective of job integration itself is not a given. Not only do some societies consider labour market integration a secondary objective, but often, major gaps exist between theory and practice. From this perspective, evaluating programs intended for the unemployed is particularly revealing. Even when the objective of work-force integration is explicitly prioritized, there is no guarantee that poverty and marginalization will be eradicated.

The objective of reintegrating unemployed workers into the labour market seems to be a goal shared by the six countries we studied. Most of the active policies intended for the non-insured unemployed attempt, in some way, to facilitate the return to full activity. However, the reciprocity measures adopted in each of the countries do not propose any single direction to accomplish this. For some, activity within the market is the only alternative to unemployment, while for others (Germany, France, but also Great Britain), activity in the community sector or caring for one’s children are viable solutions, at least on a temporary basis. Beyond the theoretical links established by programs with the labour market, our analysis revealed three diverging scenarios, both in the type of measures proposed or imposed on the recipient, and the degree of protection ensured by the resulting integration into the work force.

The institutional strategies used to get individuals off the welfare roll extend to all of the English-speaking countries and are informed by two elements. The first consists of pushing individuals off assistance by applying stringent workfare measures, while ensuring that the material conditions associated with recipient status are a powerful lever to motivate individuals to find work. The US model is a prototype of this approach. Along the same lines, other measures may be designed to make the work more profitable, by proposing income support schemes (on a family or individual basis), allowing the accumulation of income in the form of work benefits or offering employment bonuses, as is the case in Quebec. The various forms of reciprocity proposed are generally short term, much like job search support measures or ad hoc training designed to upgrade the skills of potential workers. In this scenario, integration is precarious and is associated with unstable, poorly paid menial work. Here, work and poverty are not a contradiction in terms. Of course, there are national and regional differences, namely in Great Britain and Ontario where the temporary withdrawal of single mothers from market activity is legitimized but not encouraged. Furthermore, the degree of financial support to disadvantaged individuals is more generous in Canada and Great Britain than in the United States. Yet, from a global standpoint, all of the countries studied that belong to the category of socalled liberal welfare states, seem to be on the same path toward precarious employment and reduced protection for the unemployed.

In the second scenario, reciprocity measures must better serve labour market integration, with the time spent outside the labour market being a period of training and learning. The policies developed are, therefore, aimed at the qualification of potential workers or their integration into public sector jobs, in the form of employment assistance contracts. Recipients may rely on reciprocity mechanisms for longer periods, compared to the first scenario, but the State must shoulder greater responsibility for these individuals. In the case of Germany and France, emphasis on qualification training is of varying importance. In both cases, however, the increase in employment assistance contracts has greatly favoured the emergence of a secondary job market that operates on the fringe of traditional salaried employment standards. The integration of social assistance recipients is ensured through this privileged secondary market which offers a medium-term solution to unemployment while providing relative social protection to workers for the duration of their participation. These temporary measures also foster ongoing ties with the labour market, even if this leads to greater vacillation between employment and unemployment than to sustained employment.

In a third scenario, the integration of recipients is ensured, for the most part, by regular employment and by job training policies as well as a labour force rotation system that provides the unemployed with access to the regular job market. For instance, while Denmark’s reciprocity system is authoritarian, it prioritizes training and access to training throughout the life cycle. Policies fostering a return to active working life target work-force integration, which does not create a distinct class of workers, at least on paper. However, the phenomenal increase in Denmark’s employment rate over the last three years prevents us from assessing the true efficiency of this strategy.

In all of these cases, there does not seem to be a direct link between reciprocity measures and the success or failure of work-force integration among recipients. Recent improvements in employment appear, therefore, to be more closely linked to economic recovery than to policies that foster a return to active working life. However, it would seem that certain forms of reciprocity prevent recipients from completely withdrawing from their environment (namely social integration measures), while others increase the chances of sustainable employment over a longer term (qualification training). The chances of work-force integration among the unemployed seem to depend on the nature of the measures, but also on individual characteristics, particularly age, gender and level of qualification.

The quality of integration into active society proposed to recipients through reciprocity mechanisms varies according to three distinct notions: work at all costs (“any job is a good job”); work that is different from that performed prior to unemployment; and work that is similar to that performed prior to unemployment. The following section explores the relationship between the recipient and the social sphere. In particular, we see that as reciprocity mechanisms increasingly call on social partners to fight unemployment, the relationship with the family sphere is at the heart of the most profound changes.

Reciprocity and social environment: diverging realities

It seems more difficult to provide a synthesized description of how reciprocity measures function within unemployment assistance programs from the perspective of this third relationship. Not only does this relationship contrast sharply from one country to the next, but it also tends to define significant differences within a given country, such as Canada. From this angle, feminist analyses are unanimous in concluding that it would be absurd to consider the safety net solely from the perspective of employment policies. Furthermore, it could be argued that it would be just as absurd to take only the family into account, at the expense of the community. By intersecting the results associated with these two dimensions, we arrive at four very different scenarios.

The United States seems to stand apart. It provides little support to families, imposes strict measures on single mothers, and has a strong tendency toward privatizing the management of reciprocity mechanisms. Mandatory work measures are maintained by support policies that compensate workers earning low wages. Here, the notion of “producer” is paramount, regardless of gender. For the most part, social solidarity is a responsibility placed on the shoulders of families and communities, which increases an individual’s dependence on the market.[ 14 ]

Canada and Great Britain are very similar in their approach. Both offer support to disadvantaged working parents through their tax systems and, in the case of Canada, by providing additional support to disadvantaged children, regardless of the family’s source of income. Both countries share a tendency to pressure single mothers to join the work force, while at the same time privatizing active measures under State control. In both cases, the parent-producer enjoys relative protection against financial destitution but has limited access to the public services offered by the State. The other categories of citizens, in particular unemployed individuals with no children, receive only minimum support from the State and are not part of the new model family as envisaged by liberal states. In step with the United States, Canada and Great Britain expect a great deal from families and the community sector, but provide little support.

Germany is another unique case. Here, women are encouraged to withdraw from the job market as soon as they have children. In fact, the role of homemaker, including single mothers receiving social assistance, is still widely accepted in German society. Women’s economic independence is not truly encouraged; the traditional nuclear family, with a male provider, is still perceived as a fundamental institution. The central State tends to place the responsibility of solidarity with non-insured unemployed workers or local communities, somewhat like the situation in France.

Quebec, France and Denmark represent the fourth scenario. It may seem inappropriate to consider them on equal footing, given the disparities in the level of support provided to the unemployed in each society, with Denmark’s distinctly more generous approach. Yet, in all three cases, the economic independence of the unemployed depends on work (as elsewhere), but the State offers public services to families designed to enable them to attain this financial autonomy. Furthermore, in Denmark and France, the State has invested generously in active measures and training, and is increasingly supporting actions undertaken by the community sector, the private sector and local organizations. In Quebec, this kind of State investment is less advanced. Even if the institutions in place are comparable, particularly Emploi-Québec, the way they function reveals that what they had originally envisaged is too ambitious in relation to the level of financial commitment provided by public authorities. In any event, in this group, solidarity for the most disadvantaged remains a State matter, even if communities are increasingly being solicited.

Clearly, the division of the Welfare State into categories does not provide all the answers, given that each country has adopted its own particular path. Does this mean we cannot talk about a “system” when looking at the reforms directed toward the unemployed? What overall picture emerges when social relations are the basis for analysis? Is comparison still possible, or must we rely on a case-by-case analysis? Our general conclusion allows us to assess the results and research among the various approaches that attempt to understand the Welfare State of tomorrow.

Interpretation and conclusion

As stated by J. Clasen, introducing reciprocity mechanisms is much more than simply a question of activating spending that was once passive. In fact, it transforms the very essence of assistance programs.[ 15 ] While this overall shift applies to all the countries we examined, it is important to note that the concrete forms of reciprocity mechanisms vary widely.

To begin with, programs intended for unemployed people not covered by unemployment insurance are not all equal in the overall architecture of social safety systems. In Denmark and Germany, these programs have existed for a long time and complement a well-developed social safety system. In English-speaking countries (Canada, the United States, Great Britain) and France, social assistance is more circumscribed and serves to remedy situations caused by deficiencies in the social safety net. Overall, and despite its limitations, the classification based on the type of Welfare State remains relevant. Both in the study of the relationship between the individual and the State, and between the individual and the market, we were able to identify the characteristic distinctions of the various plans, widely cited in the literature.

This first method of comparison enables us to clearly separate political rhetoric from reciprocity practices. It would be easy to lump together American-style workfare and Danishstyle workfare, under the pretext that both imply an obligation in exchange for a service. In Denmark, however, the emphasis is not on the obligation to work, but rather on the obligation to participate in measures designed to facilitate a return to the labour market. The key terms of the Danish approach are “training” and “incentive”, “flexibility”and the “individualization of public intervention.” This is a far cry from the American experience of workfare where the recipient is perceived as a burden on the State who is unwilling to work. These differences take on meaning when placed in the overall architecture of social safety systems, which is well described and analyzed in the comparative literature.

The distinction between welfare states does not, however, enable an understanding of the fundamental differences that exist among liberal countries. The United States represents a unique case which makes futile a comparison with Canadian or British realities. When it comes to the United States, we can even ponder the old critique formulated by C. Tilly about whether it is at all relevant to talk about a Welfare State or the Welfare Society. From this perspective, the Western world appears to be divided in two: on one side, the United States stands apart in its attempts to commercialize social solidarity. On the other side, the similarities are striking between Tony Blair’s Great Britain and Jean Chrétien’s Canada, at least in the larger Anglophone provinces. The influence of the British tradition of welfare does not seem to have waned in recent years, and both societies clearly belong to the same category. Difficulties arise, however, when we examine Quebec society which, in many respects, and despite the specific constraints of federalism, seems to have detached itself from the liberal family.

This is where the analysis of the relationship the State maintains, through its policies and programs, with the social environment is crucial. Not only does this relationship constitute the main area of political innovation in Canada and Great Britain, but it also creates major differences within Canada itself. We must almost consider Quebec society as “outside” Canada, at the crossroads of French and English influences, if we are to understand how the ambitious measures to provide public child care were adopted and implemented so quickly. Contrary to what the literature on “path dependency” suggests, we have concluded that public action can be innovative, radical and very different from past actions. In so-called liberal countries, it would appear that family policy is increasingly becoming the development tool in the post-industrial Welfare State, with the obvious exception of the United States. Thus, the social State is not dead. Quite the contrary, it is being transformed. But if this redeployment in favour of disadvantaged families contributes to the erosion of State intervention in em-ployment policy, there is a great risk that the measures adopted will not be enough to protect workers and the unemployed, particularly women and those without children. In Continental Europe, family policy is increasingly underpinned by job creation objectives and the fight against unemployment, but in no way is employment policy being reduced to family support measures. In this case, policy innovation is more closely associated with the development of the community sector supported by the State. Here, the creation of a second-class citizenry seems to be raising much concern, since the rights of citizens are still tightly linked to the status of worker.

It would seem, therefore, that changes made to the protection of the non-insured unemployed are only partially in line with the categorization of welfare states, generally used in the comparative literature. Not only can countries belonging to the same category be distinctly different, but the most recent changes in reciprocity practices seem difficult to understand from this single perspective.

Beyond the various types of welfare states, it is the public action taken that shapes the meaning of the reforms. These actions are the fruit of political struggles which steer government recommendations in one direction or another. In Denmark, for instance, the choice to make the unemployed active participants in their reintegration into the work force is the result of intense negotiations with unions. Forced to take part in negotiations, out of fear of being excluded from the management of the unemployment insurance system, unions insisted that there be no erosion in benefits in exchange for the obligation of the long-term unemployed to participate in active measures.[ 16 ] In the United States, in contrast, resistance by unions, women’s groups, representatives of ethnic minorities, liberal religious organizations and immigrant representatives did not prevent the adoption of the last social assistance reform, since workfare enjoys strong public support.[ 17 ]

The development of reciprocity mechanisms does not, therefore, follow a single logic, nor a series of pre-mapped paths determined by existing institutions. To understand and evaluate current experiences and innovations, we must carefully examine each case, taking into account all the constraints, but also the opportunities, created by a new era in the development of the Welfare State.


*   Pascale Dufour is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Political Economy, Carleton University (; Alain Noël ( and Gérard Boismenu (gerard.boismenu@umontre are professors at the Department of Political Science at Université de Montréal and members of Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur les transformations et les régulations économiques et sociales (CRITÈRES). This paper was presented at Université de Montréal, in February 2001, at a symposium on factors affecting social inclusion, organized by CRITÈRES and Projet de recherche sur les politiques. The research presented in this paper received the financial support from Conseil québécois de la recherche sociale (CQRS).

 1.  J. Ditch, “Full Circle: A Second Coming for Social Assistance?” in J. Clasen (ed.), Comparative Social Policy: Concepts, Theories and Methods (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999), pp. 114–35.

 2.  R. Walker, “Can Work Work? A Preliminary Assessment of the Welfare to Work Strategy,” paper presented at the conference, The Modernisation of Social Protection and Employment, Florence, European University Institute, April 15–16, 1999.

 3.  There seems to be a consensus among the authors in distinguishing these two versions of workfare. See M. Jones, “Full Steam Ahead to a Workfare State? Analysing the UK Employment Department’s Abolition,” Policy and Politics, Vol. 24, n° 2 (April 1996), pp. 137–57; F. Lesemann and T. Ulysse, “Welfare, workfare et citoyenneté aux États-Unis,” Lien social et politiques, Vol. 34 (Fall 1995), pp. 55–61.

 4.  S. Torjman, Workfare: A Poor Law (Ottawa: Caledon Institute of Social Policy, 1996), p. 1.

 5.  B. Eme and J.-L. Laville, “L’intégration sociale entre conditionnalité et inconditionnalité,” Revue française des affaires sociales, Vol. 3 (July–September 1996), pp. 27–54.

 6.  While this issue is “European,” it has also been a factor in Quebec since the 1990s.

 7.  English-speaking countries are also starting to question social exclusion, and there seems to be a certain “Europeanization” of concepts. G.J. Room, “Social Exclusion, Solidarity and the Challenge of Globalisation,” International Journal of Social Welfare, Vol. 8 (1999), pp. 166–74; J. Jenson, Les contours de la cohésion sociale (Ottawa: Études des RCPP, 1998).

 8.  On the very extensive literature establishing program evaluations, see H. Bolderson and D. Mabbet, Delivering Social Security: A Cross-National Study, Research Report 59 (London: Department of Social Security, 1997); D.F. Norris, Lyke Thompson (eds.), The Politics of Welfare Reform (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1995); J. Kwist, “Difficultés présentées par l’évaluation des allocations et des politiques du chômage,” Revue internationale de sécurité sociale, Vol. 51, n° 4 (1998), pp. 39–64.

 9.  A. Noël, “The Politics of Workfare,” in A. Sayeed (ed.), Workfare. Does it Work? Is it Fair? (Montreal: IRPP, 1995), pp. 39–52.

 10.  We are using the elements of the lozenge described by A. Evers and I. Svelick in New Welfare Mixes in Care for the Elderly, Vol. 2 (Vienna: European Center for Social Welfare Policy and Research, 1991); and A. Evers, M. Pijl and C. Ungerson (eds.), Payments for Care. A Comparative Overview (Vienna: European Center for Social Welfare Policy and Research, 1994). The authors develop the concept of the “Welfare Diamond,” the four points representing the State, the volunteer sector, the family and the market, with the recipient located at the middle of the diagram.

 11.  N. Theodore and J. Peck, “Welfare-to-Work: National Problems, Local Solutions?” in Critical Social Policy, Vol. 19, n° 4 (1999), pp. 485–510.

 12.  See, however, T. McIntosh and G.W. Boychuk, “Dis-Covered: EI, Social Assistance and the Growing Gap in Income Support for Unemployed Canadians,” in T. McIntosh (ed.), Federalism, Democracy and Labour Market Policy in Canada (Kingston: Queen’s University School of Policy Studies, 2000), pp. 65–158.

 13.  A. Noël, “Permanent Austerity? Deliberating the Post-Industrial Welfare State,” paper presented at the Conference of the International Political Science Association, Quebec City, July–August 2000.

 14.  S. Lambert, “Lower-Wage Workers and the New Realities of Work and Family,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 562 (1999), pp. 174–90.

 15.  J. Clasen, “Unemployment Compensation and Other Labour Market Policies,” in J. Clasen (ed.), Comparative Social Policy: Concepts, Theories and Methods (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999), pp. 159–77.

 16.  J. Clasen, “Motives, Means and Opportunities: Reforming Unemployment Compensation in the 1990s,” paper presented to the conference, Welfare State Reforms for the 21st Century: Agenda for Policy and Research, Florence, European University Institute, June 21–22, 1999.

 17.  J-F. Lacronique and A. Le Rigoleur, “La réforme de l’aide sociale aux États-Unis : l’obsession du sevrage,” Revue française des affaires sociales, n° 4 (1996), p. 95.