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The Sustainability of the European Social Model

The Sustainability of the European Social Model

EU Governance, Social Protection and Employment Policies in Europe

Edited by Jean-Claude Barbier, Ralf Rogowski and Fabrice Colomb

This book argues that the European Social Model can only be sustained in the current economic crisis if social and employment policies are adequately recognised as integral parts of European economic policy-making. The contributing authors investigate this hypothesis through comparative evaluations of interactions of EU economic governance with national systems of social protection. In particular they focus on two key policy areas – social services of general interest and the regulation of working time – as well as covering areas such as social inclusion, active ageing policies and job quality. By combining sociological approaches with legal analyses, the book provides unique insights and evaluation of EU methods of governance.

Chapter 15: Social services of general interest in France: The uncertain impact of the increasing reach of EU law

Jean-Claude Barbier

Subjects: law - academic, european law, labour, employment law, law and society, politics and public policy, european politics and policy, regulation and governance, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Social services of general (economic) interest (SSGIs) provide an interesting case for studying the influence of EU law on social protection systems. A sociological inquiry into this matter discovers a situation of uncertainty among actors in France. This uncertainty is legal, not in the strict sense legal scholars attach to the concept, but in the sense of the perception by social actors of the uncertain legal context to which they have to adapt to continue to manage and provide social services they had been traditionally delivering until the beginning of the 2000s. We describe the gradual transformation of the sector, and its partial ‘economization’, which dates much further back than the ’arrival’ of EU law; this leads to stressing the factors of transformation that make it relatively autonomous in a multilevel governance context. This is especially analysed in two key sub-sectors of the social services sector: childcare and long-term care for elderly persons.

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