Getting Tough on Unemployment: Essays on the politics of unemployment benefit reform in affluent democracies

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


The advanced democracies of Europe, North America, and Australasia have gotten tough on unemployment. Since the mid- to late-1970s, they started to put greater pressure on the unemployed by reducing the time for which unemployment benefits were paid, by imposing stricter job-search requirements, by extending the range of jobs considered suitable for claimants, and by tightening the penalties for non-compliance with these rules. This dissertation addresses several important gaps in the existing research on the politics of these ‘demanding’ reforms. It overcomes a key limitation of previous research, the lack of systematic comparative data, by drawing on two novel datasets on demanding unemployment benefit reforms. Four essays provide novel insights about the changes that have been introduced, about the determinants of voter attitudes, and about the roles of economic conditions and the type of government. The first paper shows that, while the unemployed are indeed under greater pressure to seek and accept work, this has not led to a complete erosion of claimant rights. Not only are many rules and provisions now formulated more precisely, making enforcement more predictable, but some protective provisions have actually been strengthened. The second paper shows that tighter sanctions are introduced in order to address the concerns of voters about overspending on social protection in austere times. The third paper shows that politically weak governments tend to compensate those who are hurt by demanding reforms by expanding labor market training programs, while this is not the case for governments who are in a stronger position. The fourth and final paper shows that the attitudes of voters toward demanding reforms are driven by different considerations, depending on whether such reforms are being introduced or not.


  • Carlo Michael Knotz
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • Welfare state reform, Unemployment benefits, Conditionality, Attitudes, Coalitions
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2016 Dec 9
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-7753-044-2
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7753-045-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2016-12-09 Time: 10:00 Place: Eden auditorium, Paradisgatan 5H, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Häusermann, Silja Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Zürich ---

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