Flexicurity Has Moved Up The European Agenda Economics Essay

Within a short period of clip, ‘flexicurity ‘ has become one of the more popular basicss of the European political discourse turn toing societal and economic policies in general and in peculiar employment policies. While, until the terminal of 2004, the construct of flexicurity was discussed chiefly among a little academic circle, today it is at the top of the European docket. Chiefly, the European Commission has become a acute protagonist of flexicurity, reding member provinces to set national employment policy schemes consequently. However, the Commission is non the lone European histrion to welcome flexicurity. Prosecuting the Commission ‘s promotion, besides the European Parliament, the last twosome of EU Presidencies, the European societal spouses, every bit good as the Council of Europe, have in some manner highlighted the significance of flexicurity in work outing Europe ‘s labor market jobs. Consequently, a European flexicurity consensus seems to hold materialised. One result of this is that there is turning force per unit area to follow flexicurity in national-level employment policy.

In recent decennaries, many European labor markets have been exemplified as missing adequate flexibleness for a new and more universalised economic system and a more dynamic labour temperament. Jointly, traditional societal protection programmes, mostly replicated on male-dominated, full-time and uninterrupted calling paradigms, have become both of all time more unequal for a lifting sector of employees occupied in non-standard types of employment and more hard to prolong financially due to economic and demographic force per unit areas. Obviously, struggle has arisen between demands for greater labor market flexibleness on the one manus, and the demand to supply equal degrees of societal protection for workers and their households on the other, which is a constituent component of the European Social Model. In this position, much of the literature on labor markets has underlined the being of a possible tradeoff between flexibleness and security. Flexible labor markets ought to be good towards occupation creative activity, but reciprocally tend to take down grades of economic security.

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The impression of ‘flexicurity ‘ can be described as a possible manner out of this quandary. It comprises a exactly balanced combination of flexibleness where it is indispensable for occupation creative activity, and protection where it is necessary for societal security. Flexicurity is based on the co-ordination of employment and societal policies. Employment policies must organize conditions to bring forth occupations, while societal policies must plight tolerable degrees of economic and societal security to all, including those who enter deregulated labor markets. Some states, notably Denmark and the Netherlands, have been represented as how labour markets can be made more dynamic without inordinate via media relation to societal protection. Recently, the policy subject has besides been foremost in assorted EU activities, such as the European Employment Strategy.

In recent decennaries, new, ‘atypical ‘ signifiers of labor contracts have boosted in many states, peculiarly in those provinces with restrictive employment protection statute law for regular contracts, so as to run into greater flexibilisation demands. However, while this developed the flexibleness of houses, it was at the disbursal of decreased employment and income security, and hapless calling chances, for the bulk of those employed under such contracts.

Still, besides the demand for a more flexible labor market and work force there is besides a demand for acceptable degrees of security to reflect the demands of both employers and employees and to let for betterment of accomplishments and forestall the division of labor markets, which involves the hazard of doing occupations more unstable and damaging sustainable integrating in the labor market. Therefore, suited public assistance province reforms were required to attach to the on-going labor market reforms.

As a effect of these developments ( see page 6! ) , a duality was publically alleged between employers ‘ involvements in hypertrophied labor market flexibleness on the one manus and workers ‘ involvements in unafraid employment and stable incomes on the other. Similarly, the European Commission criticised that frequently “ policies aim to increase either flexibleness for endeavors or security for workers ( accent in original ) ; as a consequence they neutralise or contradict each other ” ( European Commission 2007:5 ) .

Flexicurity rules could be viewed as a solution to this quandary of fulfilling the demands of both employers and employees in a fleetly altering labour market. The construct of flexicurity physiques around the premise that flexibleness and security are non contradictory, but complementary and even reciprocally supportive and can be successfully merged ( ‘win-win state of affairs ‘ ) .

Definition: It is of import to detect that there is presently no universally approved definition of ‘flexicurity ‘ . Some writers define flexicurity instead loosely, for illustration, as a policy aspiring towards “ a new balance between flexibleness and security ” ( Klammer and Tillmann, 2001: 15 ) or as “ secured flexible employment ” by incorporating labour market flexibleness with steps to counter mounting societal exclusion and the surfacing of a category of working hapless ( Ferrera et al 2001: 120 ) . In a recent Communication of the Commission ( from 27 June 2007 ) , flexicurity is simply defined as “ an incorporate scheme to heighten, at the same clip, flexibleness and security in the labor market ” ( European Commission 2007: 5 ) . A house definition which has become widely accepted is given by Wilthagen and co-workers who define flexicurity as a deliberative and corresponding policy scheme for weaker labor market groups ( see, e.g. , Wilthagen and Tros 2004: 169 ; Wilthagen and Rogowski 2002: 250 ) . This first definition chiefly applies to policy illustrations from the Netherlands ( Wilthagen and Rogowski 2002 ) . SEE PAGE 10 FOR MORE.


The Commission bit by bit sees dismissal protection as impeding indispensable flexibleness. It stresses the rudimentss of adaptability, mobility and passages, and downplays the importance of occupation protection. Indeed, Employment Commissioner A pidla frequently argued that flexicurity is ‘aˆ¦ a policy which is geared more to the protection of people than to the protection of occupations. By manner of illustration: when a ship sinks, the most of import thing is non to salvage the ship but to salvage the people on board. ‘[ 1 ]Furthermore, the Commission normally highlights the positive part to flexibleness of the low degree of dismissal protection in Denmark ( e.g. CEC 2006b: 13 ) . In peculiar, in the 2006 Employment in Europe study, it maintains that, ‘The chief push of the EU recommendation on flexicurity is to promote a displacement from occupation security to employment security flexicurity ( CEC 2006: 78 ) ‘ . So, the Commission surely favours an sweetening in labour market flexibleness for most EU states, a encouragement that it believes should be attained through increased mobility, the usage of more non-standard types of employment and decreased occupation protection.

Obviously, such increased flexibleness would hold anegative impact on ‘traditional ‘ types of security for workers and would take to more unstable employment with unsubstantial confidences. Therefore, harmonizing to the Commission, increased flexibleness should be compensated for by ‘new ‘ signifiers of security. As to the significance of this, there seems to be two cardinal elements- employability and the modernization of societal security systems.

Employability is viewed as the agencies in helping persons in doing passages from occupation to occupation, and from unemployment or inaction to employment. Persons draw security from employability, since it enhances their employment chances. As Barroso put it: ‘It is a fact of life that people may see enchantments of unemployment but, by bettering their accomplishments, they will be in a place to happen a new occupation every bit rapidly as possible. ‘[ 2 ]Lifelong acquisition is cardinal to this type of security ; the uninterrupted promotion in accomplishments would better the likeliness of happening a occupation and cut down possibilities of going unemployed.

The modernization of societal security systems, it is argued, should be intended to guarantee that all workers are sufficiently supported during non-existence in the labor market and at easing labour market mobility and passage. In the Commission ‘s analysis of reform patterns in the member provinces, such modernization is referred to, chiefly as holding the aim of ‘aˆ¦ reenforcing the inducements to take up a occupation and remain in work longer, every bit good as offering individualized support to those furthest off from the labour market ‘ ( CEC 2006b: 11 ) . This mentality of societal security reform endeavours to magnify employment rates by promoting as many people as possible into employment. Measures of this kind are doing employment more appealing or, instead, restricting entree to benefits, alluring the unemployed or the inactive to take up any signifier of employment, and offering support in happening or fixing for employment through active labour market policies, peculiarly for the more marginalised. There is n’t a clear agreement as to what ‘adequate protection during absences from the labour market ‘ would imply.

In reappraisal, the Commission ‘s flexicurity construct begs a figure of actions ; higher flexibleness through the turning usage of flexible contracts and the limitation of occupation protection and increased security through womb-to-tomb acquisition, hopefully ensuing in improved employability. Additionally, activation policies are aimed at advancing labour market engagement and heavy unemployment, through the support of active labor market policies and the decrease of the deterrent consequence of benefit entitlements. The substance the Commission gives to the flexicurity construct raises at least two of import inquiries. One of these is whether we can hold this to be an even rebalancing of flexibleness and security. The suggested addition in flexibleness is doubtless damaging to the occupation security of workers. This is non to state that all types of flexibleness are damaging to workers. For case, specific types of working clip flexibleness or opportunities to work decreased hours can besides be good for workers, giving them wider chances to command when they work and to unite work and non-work life. It should be considered though whether the ‘new ‘ security, to be accomplished by agencies of employability and activation, would equilibrate such farther flexibilisation.

The Commission ‘s attitude clearly points towards a alteration in the impression of security, traveling from being understood as protection against hazard to the ability to accommodate to alter by manner of a patterned advance of changeless acquisition ( Serrano Pascual 2004 ) . ‘Old ‘ types of security are believed to impede the needed flexibleness and should be diminished. This agreement besides ignores the fact that even with ‘old ‘ types of security, increased degrees of flexibleness can be achieved, particularly working clip and functional flexibleness. This involves, in peculiar, a narrowing of benefit strategies where they are ‘generous ‘ , and a diminution of employment protection. The ‘new ‘ security should help flexibleness and is focused on larning. Learning should take to greater adaptability and employability, which, accordingly, should ensue in employment, which is considered a great theoretical account of security.

The Commission ‘s flexicurity logical thinking besides nods towards a transmutation in the construct of solidarity. It implies that fight is the key to solidarity, understating the demand for redistributive solidarity and underscoring what Streeck ( 1999 ) expressed as ‘competitive solidarity ‘ . Competitive solidarity is used to depict a ‘new ‘ solidarity that is founded on admiting that in the demand to ‘aˆ¦ adapt to the new economic fortunes, national communities seek to support their solidarity, less through protection and redistribution than through joint competitory and productive success – through political relations, non against markets, but within and with them, bit by bit replacing protective and redistributive with competitory and productive solidarity ( Streeck 1999 ) ‘ . The Commission ‘s reading of flexicurity coincides with this perceptual experience, by underscoring the demand to ease labour market accommodations, and at the same time supplying protection in footings of leting the worker to do these accommodations and to pass through between assorted labour market provinces.

Therefore, with the Commission ‘s attack to flexicurity, increased flexibleness does non match to increased security, but instead coordinates a alteration from ‘old ‘ to ‘new ‘ types of security, clearly affecting a diminution in the ‘old ‘ types. This does non look to be an equal trade nor a win-win attack in which workers ‘ and employers ‘ demands are both and equally fulfilled. The accent is notably on increasing flexibleness, and even the societal policy facet of the impression seems to be designed to do labour markets more flexible instead than to present types of security that make increased flexibleness satisfactory or relieve its negative impact. This can barely be considered balanced. The employers ‘ petition for greater flexibleness is attended to in the Commission ‘s proposals, while workers, every bit good as the unemployed and inactive, witness a weakening in their occupation protection and income security, in permutation for womb-to-tomb acquisition and active labor market policies.

In contrast to ‘old-style ‘ occupation protection and income security, the ‘new ‘ security besides seems instead unsubstantial. Although it is presumed that the better qualified have a lower menace to employment, entree to instruction or preparation does non afford the single enforceable confidences.

The 2nd inquiry to inquire is- what ‘s new? It is unsure whether the Commission do put out a new position on labor market reform or whether flexicurity is merely a different manner of turn toing the same issue. The major factors in the Commission ‘s flexicurity vision ( i.e. more flexible contracts, lifelong larning, employability, activation, make work wage, active labor market policies and societal partnership ) have been an indispensable portion of its labor market communicating and of the EES for a piece. In this regard, hence, this accent on flexicurity seems like the same message, but in a different bundle.

What is new, nevertheless, is the important place flexicurity is deriving in the Commission ‘s employment policy, every bit good as in the renewed Lisbon scheme. Indeed, there has been small concentration on the broader EES in recent times, which now seems to stand in the shadow of the more reticent flexicurity attack. The Commission is inexorable on its signifance in work outing Europe ‘s labor market jobs and on the demand for the member provinces to put to death flexicurity schemes. Although the Commission officially contends that each state should implement its ain flexicurity scheme, accommodating it to suit national fortunes, it does strongly back the peculiar image of flexicurity discussed above. Consequently, there is a hazard that European employment policy is being reduced to this restricted version of flexicurity. This will merely ensue in tough prominence on the European undertaking on economic aims, while societal Europe becomes farther marginalised.


It is frequently argued that lasting and long-time employment relationships have become out-of-date owing to rapid technological restructuring, globalization of labor markets and new life class fondnesss of the work force. The displacement from occupation security to employment security inferred from the flexicurity construct besides mirrors this alteration. However, there is non much realistic grounds to back up this theory of the ‘end of stable occupations ‘ . Auer and Cazes ( 2003 ) , for illustration, observe surprisingly high degrees of stableness in employment relationships over clip. For case, mean occupation term of office has hardly altered in the period from 1992 to 2005 ( Auer 2007 ) .

It is deserving adverting that there are different degrees of ordinance for employment dealingss. For illustration, the European Commission regulates parttime work, fixed term contracts and impermanent bureau work via directives that are applied either by jurisprudence or by corporate understandings in the member provinces.


The Dublin Institute by and large conveys the practical grounds that illustrates that parttime work in Europe is associated with worse working conditions than full-time work. Part-time workers have fewer preparation and calling development chances, lower occupation term of office and salary degrees, less entree to subordinate payments and societal protection benefits. Conversely parttime workers are less likely to meet job-related wellness jobs and more likely to make a positive work-life balance. There are, nevertheless, cardinal state differences ( Eurofound 2003, p. 2 ) .

BusinessEurope ( once UNICE ) , the Confederation of European Business every bit good as UEAPME, the employer ‘s administration stand foring the involvements of little and moderate-sized endeavors at EU degree have been welcoming flexicurity ( Keune and Jepsen 2006 ) .

While employers ‘ representatives encouraged non-standard employment as a manner into the labour market, European trade brotherhoods were ab initio doubting of the growing of untypical work types in the name of labour market flexibilisation. Non-standard employment contracts frequently do n’t show the same on the job conditions, entree to benefits and preparation and calling chances as unrestricted full-time contracts. Unions hence advocated that workers were ensnared in these deficient employment contracts.

For case, parttime work was regarded really critically in the 1980s harmonizing to a figure of surveies cited by Visser ( 2002 ) and Dutch brotherhoods reciprocally criticised the failing environing employment protection, low rewards and calling chances of parttime occupations. They besides highlighted the low degrees of unionization among parttime workers and were concerned about the development of a secondary and non-unionised occupation market.

Assorted European trade brotherhoods and the European Trade Union Confederation ( ETUC ) campaigned in the mid-1980s for a general working-time decrease from 40 to 36 hours with full pay compensation. Employers contested against this and awaited parttime work as a type of single working-time decrease with a proportionate wage tax write-off. Unions believed this undermined their scheme.

However, Dutch adult females became really familiar with parttime occupations, ensuing in trade brotherhoods accepting and really advancing parttime work, taking to handle it likewise to standard occupations sing occupation and societal security rights. Coordinated pay bargaining, supplemented with a compulsory minimal pay, contributed in take downing the differences between these two work signifiers. Nowadays, corporate understandings and dismissal protection sing parttime work is similar to that environing full-time work ( Visser 2002 ) .


A specific type of fixed-term contract work is impermanent bureau work ( TAW ) . It differs from fixed-term contracts since the impermanent bureau works in association between the user company and the impermanent worker, and operates as the direct employer of the impermanent worker. Harmonizing to Eurofound ( 2006 ) the portion of TAW of entire employment in Denmark was really the lowest in EU-15. However, in the last decennary or so the portion of TAWs has tripled from 0.3 % ( 1999 ) to 0.9 % ( 2006 ) . The addition likely came as a consequence of the economic roar since 2004, and the reaching of immigrant workers due to an expansion of the EU ( AEradet 2006 ) .

Impermanent bureau work is non covered by the jurisprudence on fixed-term contracts, but alternatively regulated by corporate understandings. This place will likely be flawed in the long tally. In June 2008, the Council of the European Union reached a political understanding refering a directive on impermanent bureau work. The aim of the Council ‘s proposal was to continue the rule of equal intervention. Although the Danish labor market administrations may implement the directive within their legal power, extra Torahs will besides be required to cover the residuary work force.

Initially, the trade brotherhoods disputed TAW and other types of “ untypical ” employment, as they believed that impermanent workers would sabotage the pay and working conditions of regular workers. Gradually, nevertheless, TAW and other types of “ untypical ” employment have become the norm in the economic system, and the trade brotherhoods have alternatively sought to integrate them in the system of corporate understandings and bargaining. Today, hence, TAW are mostly covered by corporate understanding, and impermanent bureaus are besides, really much, members of the employers associations ( Andersen 2007, p. 71 ) . Andersen ( 2007 ) examines different steps of security for TAW in Denmark and Holland, and observes that their pay and working conditions, sing pensions, vacations, sickness benefits and so forth, have steadily become comparable to those of regular workers. Owing to the complex employment relationship between the user company and impermanent bureau, nevertheless, there remain differences sing which corporate understandings use and obstructions in spread outing the coverage of corporate understandings to the lifting figure of immigrant workers from Eastern and Central Europe ( Andersen 2007 ) .

“ Atypical ” employment is frequently associated with inferior occupation security, hapless working and pay conditions, fewer societal security entitlements, limited entree to lifelong acquisition, and active labor market policies. This does non look to be the instance in Denmark. The different types of “ untypical ” employment are by and large covered by the same statute law and corporate understandings as long-run employees. Technically, hence, it could be said that Danish flexicurity affecting regular workers has besides been broadened to consist “ untypical ” workers.

A cardinal feature of Dutch flexicurity is the mixture of untypical, flexibly types of work with societal security rights which are kindred to those in standard employment. Briefly, this method can be described as “ normalizing non-standard work ” ( Wilthagen2007:3 ; see besides Visser 2002 ) .[ 3 ]A acute attack has been taken to distribute work, attention and instruction more equally over the lifecycle. A new financially-supported voluntary nest eggs strategy will let workers to salvage a proportion of their pay to guard periods of leave for attention, instruction or otherwise ( European Commission 2006b ) .

Active labor market steps are offered for the unemployed to better ’employability ‘ . Agencies play an of import function for impermanent work and, hence, a figure of ordinances have been introduced to supply impermanent bureau workers with employment protection, rights to preparation, pay warrants and auxiliary pensions ( Wilthagen 2007 ) . The place of workers on impermanent contracts was accordingly boosted by cut downing precariousness but without negatively impacting the flexibleness factor ( European Commission 2007 ) .


Flexicurity is the new cant in the European argument on the labor market. More significantly, in recent old ages, it has surfaced as the cardinal construct in the European Commission ‘s employment policy. Following the Commission ‘s counsel, many other European histrions have shown acute involvement in flexicurity, in the solutions it promises for Europe ‘s labor market jobs, and in its warrant in making win-win state of affairss, taking equal history of employers ‘ and workers ‘ involvements. Hence, flexicurity is emerging as an of import construct. Still, at the minute it seems that merely the Commission has advanced with a more specific impression of what flexicurity is supposed to intend.

The Commission illustrates flexicurity as a fresh manner of pull offing the globalised economic system, as a new and balanced maneuver to organize the flexibleness needed by endeavors while, at the same time, guaranting security for workers. However, unknoting the Commission ‘s, it is suggested that its construct of flexicurity is non really balanced and barely new. It is non balanced because, alternatively of making a win-win state of affairs, it favours flexibleness over security and employers ‘ involvements over workers ‘ involvements. It is besides non new since the cardinal elements of the Commission ‘s flexicurity visual image have been portion of its labor market discourse and of the EES for rather some clip already. The Commission ‘s place on flexicurity besides reinforces its accent on economic alternatively of societal ends and its reconceptualisation of security from protection against hazard to the ability to accommodate to alter, and of solidarity from redistributive solidarity to competitory solidarity. What seems to be new, nevertheless, is that flexicurity seems to bit by bit be replacing the broader EES and symbolises a contraction of European employment policy.

Other European histrions are clearly still in the procedure of developing a true sentiment on what flexicurity theoretical account they support. It remains to be seen how they will respond to the Commission ‘s attack and, later, what the hereafter holds for flexicurity in Europe. It does look improbable, though, that the Commission ‘s position on flexicurity reflects European understanding. Resistance can particularly be expected of the European trade brotherhoods and the left-of-centre divisions of the European Parliament.



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