So-called activation policies aiming at bringing jobless people into work have been a central component of welfare reforms across OECD countries during the last decades. Such policies combine restrictive and enabling programs, but their characteristic feature is that also enabling programs are mandatory, and non-compliers are sanctioned. There are four main arguments that can be used to defend mandatory activation of benefit recipients. We label them efficiency, sustainability, paternalism, and justice. Each argument is analyzed in turn and according to a strict scheme. First we clarify which standards it invokes. Thereafter we evaluate each argument according to its own standards Finally we introduce competing normative concerns that have to be taken into account. In the conclusion we discuss possible constellations of arguments that make up the normative space for activation policies.
work-welfare social transfers labour productivity screening