The challenges of decentralized delivery of services: the scope for active citizenship in Swedish and Norwegian activation policies
Since the 1990s, European welfare states have come to emphasize individual or personalized approaches to unemployment. An individual approach, on the one hand, implies an ambition to involve the individual on his or her own terms in a dialogue on how to handle unemployment, from both shortand long-term perspectives. Individual circumstances therefore become the starting point for social interventions, with presumed reciprocity between individual job seekers and agency staff, as they negotiate a common agreement on activation measures. This presumption places great pressure on both the individual and the public services. On the other hand, an individual approach means strengthened individual responsibilities and obligations, i.e. public welfare provisions become conditional on the individual fulfilling these obligations. Whether this approach recognizes the individual as a subject with legitimate views and with the rights to influence the activation process is debatable, because the state uses either strong financial incentives or monetary sanctions to bring people into gainful employment.