The Implementation of Work Conditionality : A Swiss Case Study

Saturday, 21 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Jean-Pierre TABIN, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Switzerland
Anne PERRIARD, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Since the early 2000’, active social policies based on the normative model of social investment have been developed in Europe (Morel, Palier, & Palme, 2012) and in Switzerland (Bonvin & Dahmen, 2017). Their aim is to « prepare to have less to repair » and « to invest early in education and health » (Palier, 2014, p. 19), which means that they rely more upon prevention than reparation (Lima & Moulin, 2006), postulating that the sooner the intervention starts, the greatest the return on investment will be (Heckman, 2005). Their normative background is that employment is better than state dependency.

The standards promulgated by the state are implemented by agents, whose power is far from insignificant. Drawing from researches on street-level bureaucracy (Lipsky, 1980; Tabin & Perriard, 2016), this communication is based on 77 semi-directive interviews conducted with 74 social workers between 2011 and 2014. Our analysis of the social workers’ discourse shows that the institutionalized model (Fraser, 2005) underlying social investment policies clashes with other normative models linked for instance with age, race or sex relations. The implementation of work conditionally is thus not always the case, or can belong to a more or less distant future. And activation takes on different meanings when professionals are dealing with young people or with mothers. In some cases, the implementation of social investment policies challenges even the idea that employment is better than state dependency. Finally, the results of our study demonstrate that sociologists should always reflect on the implementation of social policies for a better understanding of what they are.

This research has been conducted with the National Center of Competence in Research LIVES (www.lives-nccr.ch).