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This book compares workfare policies in the United States and 'active labor policies' in Western Europe that are aimed primarily at the long-term unemployed, unemployed youth, lone parents, immigrants and other vulnerable groups often referred to collectively as the 'socially excluded'. The Europeans maintain that workfare is the best method of bringing the socially excluded back into mainstream society. Although there are differences in terms of ideology and practice, Joel F. Handler argues that there are also significant similarities, especially field-level practices that serve to exclude those who are the least employable or lack other qualifications that agencies favor. The author also examines strategies for reform, including protective labor legislation, the Open Method of Coordination, the reform of social and employment services, and concludes with an argument for a basic income guarantee, which would not only alleviate poverty but also provide clients with an exit option.

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