Labour markets under attack

The new European labour market policy after the crisis and the impact of the national labour markets

Felix Syrovatka, University of Tübingen

» Full paper: ilera-2019-paper-7-Syrovatka.pdf

The architecture of the European Union has changed in the past years of crisis and its constitutional crisis management. The different bricks of the European austerity policy have built a European system of control to supervise the economic policy on the national level. In the centre of this system there is a new mechanism of labour market policy control and interventionism. I call this mechanism the New European Labour Market Policy because its based on the old instruments of the European employment policy but its more binding and stronger. Before the crisis, the European Labour market policy was only symbolic and equipped with “soft” instruments. After the crisis, the New European Labour Market Policy got binding instruments and “hard” recommendations. The implementation of crisis-constitutional measures created opportunities for direct european influence on the national labour markets. This influence is evidently not only an indirect intervention in the area of labour market regulation and wage policy, but also a way to indirectly- for example via the country specific recommendations (CSR) - initiate or request reforms in the member states. The influence of the EU institutions on national labour market regulations is ensured through two different methods that justify the different quality of interventionism. On the one hand, the influence via the CSR takes place within the framework of the European Semester, which has been given a new binding force by the introduction of financial sanctioning mechanisms. On the other hand, there is influence over the exchange of financial support for political reforms.

In this way, I see the New Labour Market policy as an interaction of formal and informal, institutionalized and non-institutionalized, economic and socio-political forms of regulation, surveillance and enforcement. The content frame of this instruments is the common focus on European competitiveness as a lever to solve the European crisis. Accordingly, the New European Labour Market Policy concentrates on a reduction of unit labour costs to boost European competitiveness. Therefore, a new leading concept of New European Labour Market Policy was created. The flexicurity-concept, the former leading concept, has been replaced by the resilience concept, which is embedded in a comprehensive strategy of the European Union. At the same time, the concept represents a neoliberal radicalization. In the area of labour market policy, the resilience-concept is aiming for marketisation and much more flexibilization whereas the security dimension of Flexicurity doesn’t exist anymore.

The presentation aims to show the transformation of New European Labour Market Policy in crisis and which changes in content were associated with it. At the same time, it will explain how the New European Labour market policy works and which different influences the European interventions have on the national labour market policies.