Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Torben Fridberg, Mikael Hjerm and Kristen Ringdal

Providing highly rigorous and up-to-date data, with a wide coverage of topics, this book will be of great interest to academics and students in sociology, social policy and political science. It will also appeal to anyone interested in the Nordic countries in general.

Chapter 9: Non-standard Employment and Job Quality

Heikki Ervasti

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Heikki Ervasti INTRODUCTION During the last decades, working life has been involved in a process of everaccelerating change. A notable percentage of the European labour force is already employed in non-standard or flexible work arrangements, yet claims for further deregulation are not rare in policy debate. The proponents of deregulation, who are mostly employers and right-wing politicians, view the European labour markets as ‘sclerotic’; that is, too rigid and inflexible to meet the demands of intensified global competition. According to their view, the strongly regulated labour markets and generous welfare states hinder economic performance and generate massive problems in the labour markets, with high levels of structural unemployment being the most visible problem (see Andersen and Jensen 2004 for an overview). Therefore, there are many people who think that less regulation and the enforcement of pure and undisturbed market forces are the only ways to economic success and high levels of employment in European countries. It is commonly argued that the increase in non-standard work will offer certain advantages for both employers and employees (see Belous 1989). From the employers’ point of view, non-standard working arrangements provide numerical flexibility, which helps firms adjust their workforces to uncertain market demands and save notably on employment costs. For example, the subcontracting and outsourcing of non-essential functions make it possible for firms to concentrate on their core areas of competence and to use their resources more efficiently (Kalleberg and Olsen 2004, p. 322). As a positive consequence for employees,...

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