When thinking about the traditional boundaries of the welfare state, particularly of labour and employment policies, we tend to place them within the boundaries of the nation-state. However, with contemporary processes of European economic integration and devolution of competences to sub-national entities, our understanding of the spatial configuration of the welfare state has been challenged. These developments are also partially related to 'new governance' patterns in social policy. The authors explore the 'downward' movement of employment and labour market policies (LMP) in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy and explore cross-national differences regarding the characteristics and degree of decentralisation. The paper finds that decentralisation in Germany and the UK is mainly related to the 'activation' and 'employability' agenda, as well as a broader trend of public management reform whilst in Italy a more general restructuring of the state is the main motor of LMP decentralisation. In addition, we see private actors at the local level gaining an important role in the provision and management of this policy area (i.e., de-concentration) in the three countries. Nonetheless, even if we observe this cross-national trend, in all three countries the national level retains an important role in LMP policy design and financing.
Labor and Employment Law