IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Beating the "unemployable" with a stick: The effect of economic incentives on unemployed immigrants and their social welfare workers




This study examines the impact of a Danish policy change that intended to 'make work pay' for married immigrant women receiving social assistance. According to new regulations adopted in 2006, married social benefit recipients in jobless households were required to work 300 hours within a two year period in order to remain eligible for social assistance. In the case of non-compliance, one spouse would lose the benefit entitlements (about 18,000? yearly). We have some evidence that the new rules did have an impact, but the central question of this paper is how economic incentives may influence the labour market integration of groups with low employability? In order to answer this question I pursue a qualitative research approach contrasting two theoretical explanations. One that relates to the effect on the immigrant women, and another that focuses on changes in the behaviour of social welfare workers. The analysis suggests that the strong economic incentives did speed up job search efforts and made these women less choosy, but due to employment barriers, it was often difficult to 'transform' the increased job wish into employment. Moreover, this policy intensified the cross-pressure of social welfare workers which fostered an atmosphere of emergency and a break with past coping-behaviour. All in all this study questions the impact of economic incentives towards groups with low employability, but highlights the potential role of social welfare workers.

Suggested Citation

  • DIOP-CHRISTENSEN Anna, 2012. "Beating the "unemployable" with a stick: The effect of economic incentives on unemployed immigrants and their social welfare workers," LISER Working Paper Series 2012-30, LISER.
  • Handle: RePEc:irs:cepswp:2012-30

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blackaby, D.H. & Latreille, P.L. & Murphy, P.D. & O'Leary, N.C. & Sloane, P.J., 2007. "An analysis of reservation wages for the economically inactive," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 1-5, October.
    2. McCubbins, Mathew D & Noll, Roger G & Weingast, Barry R, 1987. "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 243-277, Fall.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Coping behaviour; Economic incentives; Immigrants; Marginalisation; Social assistance; Streetlevel bureaucracy;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:irs:cepswp:2012-30. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Library and Documentation). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.