Restructuring Work and Employment in Europe

Restructuring Work and Employment in Europe

Managing Change in an Era of Globalisation

Edited by Bernard Gazier and Frédéric Bruggeman

This detailed, comprehensive study on downsizing in Europe is underpinned by cross-national, interdisciplinary empirical research on restructuring management in five European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It contains systematic national comparative overviews, and transversal analyses of more than 30 in-depth case studies, taking into account a broad range of perspectives across professional human resources managers, unions’ representatives, local and national civil servants, social workers and physicians. The authors examine strategic choices and practices in national and local contexts, showing that the practice of restructuring is not as heterogeneous as many previous studies have indicated or predicted. Systematic policy proposals for better economic and social management of restructuring are also prescribed.

Chapter 8: United Kingdom: Market Driven Restructuring

Sian Moore and Geof Luton

Subjects: business and management, strategic management, economics and finance, labour economics


Sian Moore and Geof Luton THE FRAMEWORK OF RESTRUCTURING AND THE PUBLIC DISCOURSE ON CHANGE 1. The 1980s saw a transformation in the structure and nature of the UK economy with the decline of manufacturing and increase in importance of the service sector. The rapidity of this decline has been attributed to the historical lack of investment; the withdrawal of state aid; government macroeconomic policies (the overvaluation of exchange rates and high interest rates) as well as the dominance of the deregulated finance sector prioritising short-term returns to shareholders. It involved waves of job losses; in 1978 the percentage of the labour force employed in manufacturing was 28 per cent, by 2005 it had fallen to 12 per cent. In the same period employment in service sector jobs grew from 61 per cent to 82 per cent. The figures also suggest regional variability; for regions and locations dependent upon certain manufacturing sectors the result has been de-industrialisation and the destruction of communities. Since the late 1990s there has been strong job growth and high employment rates. In the context of the increased mobility of capital, the growth of the ‘knowledge economy’, the deregulation of labour markets and rapid technological advances, economic discourses linking lifelong learning to national competitiveness, productivity and flexibility have become especially powerful. UK government policy has increasingly reflected these concerns and the language of employability and skills formation largely dominates this discourse. 2. THE IMPORTANCE OF REDUNDANCIES AND DISMISSALS The transition to a predominantly service economy...

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