Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Differentiation and Diversity in Practising Public Policy-Hindrance or Possibility?

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Differentiation and Diversity in Practising Public Policy-Hindrance or Possibility?

Article excerpt


In 2006 a major investigation was conducted by the Swedish government into discrimination. This investigation included 15 reports by around 100 Swedish researchers and experts on the area called the "Black book on integration". (1) The aim of the research was to study structural discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and religion in all areas of society. Results show that this type of discrimination exists in all the sections of society included in the study and that it is based on the "otherization" of immigrants, a phenomenon which is produced and reproduced as a feature of everyday racism. The discrimination is also based on a systematic subordination of the "other" and operates in intersections of power relations and in, racist stereotypes; furthermore, it is gendered and related to class and age. In the areas of work and employment, the report (2) shows that there is discrimination in all sectors of working life and in the labour market. Discrimination also exists in the welfare state, rooted in a selective policy for immigrants based on categorization and unequal treatment. (3)

The first aim of this paper is to discuss and analyze the impact of differentiation amongst clients in public policy. Focus is directed towards activation policy which aims to include individuals into the labour market. In Sweden activation is used as a part of integration policy, and a large number of those involved are immigrants. The paper analyses empirical examples from Sweden of how public policy administrators differentiate among the clients in activation policy based on presumptions of gender and 'race' and are thereby at risk of discriminating against them. It also discusses how the underlying construction of Swedish welfare policy makes this differentiation possible as well as how differentiation could affect social rights for immigrants involved in activation policy.

The second aim, also drawing on empirical examples, is to discuss the impact of diversity amongst administrators in relation to differentiation and discrimination of clients, with reference to the concepts of representation and recognition. Could one solution to problems of negative differentiation amongst immigrants be diversity amongst the administrators? Could administrators from a specific group be seen as representative for other individuals from the same group and thereby enhance a particular group's possibilities of integration?

Integration policy as activation policy

During the last decades the European welfare states have shifted focus from welfare to workfare or activation policy. (4) In Sweden activation policy is (as mentioned above) part of integration policy. The Swedish integration policy is based on a "universal" ideology, while the activation policy is tied to a selective, local and enforcing system, that is to say a social assistance system that enables large distinctions among districts, groups and individuals though it is locally distributed and transformed in this process.

Local administrators tend to redraft and transform policies as they implement them. This is done in ways that sometimes result in discrimination of certain groups and several studies have shown that presumptions and local discourses regarding immigrants have influenced administrators and furthermore, that discrimination of immigrants is not unusual in welfare distribution. (5) These observations are of course problematic although administrators can choose to interpret activation policy used as integration policy in an alternative manner.

By means of different examples the first part of this paper will demonstrate how the underlying construction of Swedish integration policy as activation policy makes possible a differentiation of immigrants that, depending on which category they are differentiated into, either strengthens their social rights or undermines them.

Swedish integration policy has a history that stretches back some decades. …

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