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Delivering employability in a vanguard 'active' welfare state : the case of Greater Copenhagen in Denmark

Lindsay, Colin and Mailand, Mikkel (2009) Delivering employability in a vanguard 'active' welfare state : the case of Greater Copenhagen in Denmark. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 27 (6). pp. 1040-1054. ISSN 1472-3425

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Denmark has been regularly cited as a leading example of the ‘active’ welfare state. Regional and local governance and delivery structures have been crucial to the implementation of Denmark’s strategies to improve the employability of unemployed people. In this paper we trace the development, implementation, and effectiveness of regional and local labour-market structures in Denmark, particularly focusing on the country’s largest region—Greater Copenhagen. Drawing on interviews with key stakeholders and case-study research, we critically analyse the performance of: (a) the regional structures that have, until recently, provided the main framework for planning employability strategies; and (b) emerging frameworks for local-authority-led employability services. We argue that Denmark has successfully established effective regional governance structures, which have included employers, trade unions, and other stakeholders in the planning of provision for job seekers, while allowing for the tailoring of employability services to reflect the dynamics of local labour markets. However, there remain concerns that recent reforms that effectively dismantle regional structures in favour of more localised governance will threaten the capacity of future employability programmes to secure the buy in of stakeholders and respond to changing labour-market conditions.