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← Overview Database of Innovative Social Policies in Europe

Emergence of a second tier of the public employment service

Country of implementation
General short description of the innovation
Target group
Total Population
Policy Field
  • employment
Type of Policy
  • public
Duration of the policy
2005, modified 2011/ 2012, open-ended
Scope of innovation
  • Budgets: not applicable
  • Number of intended beneficiaries: Equals the number of recipients of minimum income benefits (‰unemployment benefit IIˇ): from 5.4 million (2006) down to 4.4 million (2013)
  • Spatial coverage: national
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
From2005, ‰unemployment benefit IIˇ replaced both unemployment assistance and social assistance for working-age and able-to-work recipients (see innovation no. 18). It was the governmentˇs intention to have this new benefit administered (and concomitant activation and placement services delivered) by the Federal Employment Agency (responsible also for unemployment benefits). However, the Christian Democrats (then in opposition in the national parliament but dominating the second chamber that represents the states) insisted that the new benefit (like previously social assistance) should be administered by the municipalities. The compromise that emerged out of the impasse between the two chambers created local joint ventures made up of the local branch of the Federal Employment Agency and the social department of the respective municipality. Furthermore, municipalities could apply for running the new service alone, with the number of these options at first limited to 69 (out of roughly 440 municipalities). Following a Federal Constitutional Court ruling of 2007, the number of options was raised to § of the municipalities, the governance of the joint ventures was modified, and both types of delivery were named ‰jobcentresˇ. As a consequence of both the benefit reform and the low influx of ‰freshˇ unemployed with insurance-based benefit entitlements, jobcentres serve by far more clients than the employment agencies and have effectively developed into a distinct second tier of the public employment service.
Nature of the innovation-short-term perspective
jobcentres represent a new type of public employment service
Nature of the innovation-long-term perspective
emerging as an unintended consequence of radical benefit reform (see innovation no.18), jobcentres are emblematic of the programmatic paradigm shift toward ‰activationˇ
Type of ideal-typical strategy for the innovation
  • typical strategy for the innovation (optional; according to Obinger)-dualisation
  • typical strategy for the innovation (optional; according to Obinger)-liberalisation
Type of innovation
  • new form of partnership or cooperation
  • new form of policy implementation/delivery
  • new policy, practice or measure
New outputs
  • governance (because of municipal self-government a nd the involvement of municipalities in running job centres , governance of jobcentres is more complex and less hierarchical than the governance of employment agencies. )
  • job guidance, coaching and/or counselling (case management , counselling and jobsearch monitoring/coaching are new services delivered by the jobcentres )
Clarification of intended mechanisms, outputs and outcomes (optional)
Fragmentation and complexity of jobcenter governance was not intended but emerged from political compromise which can be explained in terms of path dependence: Jobcentres administer a benefit cast in the mould of social assistance, which was traditionally a municipal responsibility.
Intended target group
long-term unemployed
Working age population
  • educational level (low/medium/high) (the majority of recipients lack certified vocational skills)
  • employment situation (please specify: e.g. typical work/atypical/unemployed) (unemployed , temporarily unavailable , or ‰working poorˇ )
  • income level (low/medium/high) (low)
  • main source of income: social protection (please specify; e.g. unemployment benefits/disability benefits/social assistance/other benefits) (‰unemployment benefit IIˇ = minimum income benefit for needy persons of working age and considered able to work , irrespective of unemployment status)
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
  • making/implementation and/or evaluation-central state
  • making/implementation and/or evaluation-municipal government
  • making/implementation and/or evaluation-regional government (regional governments supervise municipalities)
Intended output
  • job guidance, coaching and counselling
Intended and unintended outcomes
comprehensive institutional change, target group fully covered
Clarification of outcomes in terms of impacting resilience and labour market inclusion
The fundamental intention of the reform was to include long-term unemployed in labour markets by better counseling and more effective job placement. However, long-term unemployment and even more long-term benefit recipiency have turned out to be very sticky. The improvement of services seems to have little effect. Part of the explanation is the very broad definition of the target group with regard to their ability to work. A sizeable proportion of the clients is effectively not fit to work under prevailing conditions.
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