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Extending Opportunities How Active Social Policy Can Benefit Us All: Combating Poverty and Exclusion Among Prime‐aged Persons

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Preventing poverty and exclusion among prime‐aged persons is a key goal of social protection. While poverty and exclusion manifest themselves most directly in the form of inadequate income, their principal roots lie in a lack of skills, in a range of personal characteristics and structural factors that create obstacles to the use of skills, and in the reinforcement of these obstacles during periods of benefit receipt. Active social policies to avoid poverty and exclusion among persons of working age aim at helping benefit recipients overcome the obstacles to entering into paid work. They combine early and tailored interventions, greater focus on integration services, mutual obligations on both clients and providers to co‐operate in the rehabilitation process, and reforms of benefit systems to remove disincentives to work. Active social policies, however, are not a silver bullet. While substantial progress has been achieved in many OECD countries by putting employment integration at the heart of social policy, not everyone can be expected to participate in the labour market, and getting people into jobs will be insufficient to avoid exclusion if people do not keep the jobs, if the wages that the jobs pay are not high enough to escape poverty, or if they offer little prospects of skills development and career progression. Hence, policies aimed at integration into employment must be complemented by measures to ¡°make‐work‐pay¡± and to assure adequate income for those for whom integration or re‐integration into the labour market is more difficult to achieve, in particular single parents and people with disabilities. A consensus is also emerging in anumber of countries on applying an approach based on the principle of ¡°mutual obligations¡± ¨C that the commitment and effort society makes to assist beneficiaries requires that they in turn do their best to take steps to find work or engage in other productive activities. The pay‐off of these policies in the future is higher income and selfsufficiency among traditional client groups, as well as higher employment rates for the economy as a whole. Reaping these benefits will require:¡ñ Completing the welfare‐to‐work agenda.¡ñ Making progress with welfare‐in‐work.¡ñ Moving beyond work as the only focus of policies.¡ñ Strengthening the effectiveness of programmes targeted to persons for whom work is less feasible.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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