2004 volume 22(1) pages 129 – 148

Cite as:
Etherington D, Jones M, 2004, "Beyond contradictions of the workfare state? Denmark, welfare-through-work, and the promise of job rotation" Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 22(1) 129 – 148

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Beyond contradictions of the workfare state? Denmark, welfare-through-work, and the promise of job rotation

David Etherington, Martin Jones

Received 24 June 2002, in revised form 15 January 2003

Abstract. The reform of the British welfare state through the Labour Party's welfare-to-work initiative is beginning to generate considerable debate. Research is revealing that, amongst other things, supply-side interventions are not sufficient on their own to build skilled, dynamic, and socially inclusive economies. Although there is an emerging consensus that welfare-to-work is deeply problematic, in UK debates there has been a degree of reluctance to discuss workable alternatives. This paper stimulates debate by focusing on Denmark's labour-market and welfare reforms during the 1990s. As part of a 'welfare-through-work' model, fostered on a negotiated and inclusive system of welfare reform, Denmark has followed a strategy that appears to deliver both economic competitiveness and social cohesion, and also raises critical questions around labour market inequalities and the distribution of work. We suggest that the Danish experience can shed light on tensions currently being experienced within Britain. Attention is specifically paid to the origins, development, and promises of job rotation -- a radical work-sharing initiative that is being flagged by the European Commission as the good-practice model for 'sustainable employment' and 'lifelong learning'. We argue that important connections exist between the structure of labour-market representation, which is mediated through the social and political forces that can gain access to the state apparatus, and the patterns of policy interventions and their outcomes.

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