Where now for flexicurity? – new SPERI Global Political Economy Brief

— 21.03.16

by Jody Dalton

A new SPERI Global Political Economy Brief, published in March 2016, presents new research by SPERI Associate Fellows Professor Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings. The Brief shows that across the EU there has been a significant shift towards weaker job security and employment support since the global financial crisis. Click here to download the report.

Key findings

  • Analysis of data from 19 European states shows that governments across the EU have increased labour market flexibility by weakening and removing employee protections, but have not increased support to help people back into the labour market.
  • This is a European-wide trend, but the dramatic shifts have been in southern Eurozone countries that have received financial bailouts.
  • The findings raise serious questions about the viability of the EU’s ‘flexicurity’ agenda which underpins the European Commission’s social policy and labour market programmes. Flexicurity is based on the idea that modern labour markets should be flexible but should also offer strong support and security for workers.

“Britain’s highly flexible labour market used to be an outlier in Europe but now other countries’ systems are looking more like ours.”

Professor Jason Heyes, Chair in Employment Relations at Sheffield University Management School

Professor Jason Heyes commented:

“In post-crisis Europe there has been a significant policy shift towards a more liberal model of weaker job security and increased labour market flexibility. This is a continent-wide trend and the UK is at the forefront. Britain’s highly flexible labour market used to be an outlier in Europe but now other countries’ systems are looking more like ours.

“Across European Union states it has become easier to lay-off workers, adult training and education provision is declining, and social security systems are being restructured with greater conditionality and ‘workfare’ approaches to benefit entitlements.

“Unless the European Commission and national governments start to remake the case for flexicurity then the prospects for its implementation across Europe look gloomy. However, this would require governments and the Troika to reverse their commitment to austerity and there are no signs that this is at all likely.”

Dr Thomas Hastings:

“The ‘European Social Model’ of strong employee protection and state support to help people back into work appears to be unravelling. No country bucks the trends of moving away from this model. Austerity economic policies are being prioritised over social policies, and this is seen most clearly in the southern states of Spain, Portugal and Greece where the Troika has demanded strict reforms.”


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