Which regime works best in social welfare? Comparing outcomes of eight Dutch RCT experiments

Ruud Muffels, Arjen Edzes, P. Gramberg, R. H. Rijnks, V. A. Venhorst

Research output: Online publication or Non-textual formWeb publication/siteScientificpeer-review

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Current technological innovations (automation, robotization, digitization, AI, big data) may have adverse employment effects notably for the low skilled welfare recipients. They face reduced chances for getting access to secure and fairly paid
jobs also while two in three lack the basic qualifications needed to acquire the lowest level jobs, let alone that also more than one third consider themselves unfit to work due to serious physical or mental health issues. Therefore, eight Dutch municipalities (Deventer, Groningen, Nijmegen, Tilburg, Utrecht, Wageningen, Apeldoorn-Epe, Oss) started in the fall of 2017 and early 2018 a two-year long unique randomized control trial (RCT) to test three alternative regimes for people on welfare in which more than 5,000 recipients participated2. The treatments set up were (1) exemption/selfmanagement, that is exemption of the application obligations and rendering more trust and autonomy to the recipient for self-management, (2) intensive or tailored support, that is providing tailored and intensified counselling support to improve claimants’ work and social participation opportunities (e.g., in education, training or volunteer work) and (3) earnings release, that is rewarding welfare claimants for finding work by allowing participants to keep a larger part of their earnings on top of their benefit (work bonus). The experiments share some features of participation and basic income approaches even though their design and implementation are rather different. We found no evidence that the alternative welfare regimes have reduced employment effects compared to ‘workfare’ regimes. In some municipalities we find small positive significant effects on parttime and fulltime employment and on people’s self-efficacy, social trust and trust in caseworker’ support. No significant positive effects were found on health and wellbeing. The use of field experiments for testing the outcomes of alternative welfare regimes provides new avenues for welfare state policy in an era of rapid technological and economic change.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • RCT
  • Participation Income
  • register and panel data
  • treatment models
  • Social Policy


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