Dynamics and Perspectives
Edited by Peter Ester, Ruud Muffels, Joop Schippers and Ton Wilthagen
Chapter 1: Innovating European Labour Markets: An Introduction
Ton Wilthagen, Ruud Muffels, Peter Ester and Joop Schippers 1.1 INTRODUCTION It is not a big secret that when politicians and policymakers are speaking of ‘challenges’ they are actually referring to severe problems that are very difficult to handle. The labour market is such an area of challenges or, phrased differently, large problems. It represents a societal domain where, in the words of the Portuguese social theorist De Sousa Santos (1995), we are facing modern problems but are lacking modern solutions. Moreover, there is an awareness, fed by a classical sociologist such as Durkheim (1960) and a modern economist such as Sen (1985), to mention just two of them, that the labour market as a domain is a major vehicle for social integration, cohesion, wealth and well-being creation, and the distribution thereof. This implies that when labour markets are not operating properly this not only creates problems of ‘function’, that is problems in the labour market itself, but also problems of ‘performance’, that is negative effects on the society at large.1 The aims of this book are to portray and examine the ongoing changes in employment forms and people’s life courses and particularly to present, put to the test and further develop innovative labour market policies and perspectives. The policies and perspectives can be considered potential answers to the challenges and requirements labour market and employment systems confront. It is in this manner that we can define the key concept of ‘innovation’, namely as adequate and effective, possibly even proactive,...