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The Multi-Tool Nature of Active Labour Market Policy and its Implications for Partisan Politics in Advanced Democracies

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Document pages: 17 pages

Abstract: Active labour market policy (ALMP) has emerged as a major topic of inquiry among comparative scholars in recent decades, alongside other social investments. However, few conclusive results have been produced regarding the political explanations of these policies, and not least the role of partisan politics. To help remedy this problem, this article proposes a new understanding of ALMP as a profoundly versatile set of ‘multi-purpose tools’ that policymakers across the political spectrum can use as a means to very different distributional ends. Specifically, it highlights how ALMP programmes vary in terms of 1) their target groups, 2) their intended labour market outcomes, and 3) their modes of production in politically salient ways. Informed by the new framework and by recent research, the article then develops a refined theory about how governments with different left–right placement, operating under economic and institutional constraints, affect ALMP development in different directions.

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