Innovating European Labour Markets

Innovating European Labour Markets

Dynamics and Perspectives 

Edited by Peter Ester, Ruud Muffels, Joop Schippers and Ton Wilthagen

This book examines innovative theoretical perspectives and novel labour market policy responses to Europe’s changing work demands, employment careers and life courses. It presents creative ideas and recommendations for flexicurity policies at various levels and in different social and economic contexts. The driving factors determining the performance of dissimilar pathways in Europe are identified in regard to their impact on the flexibility/security nexus. Key issues in the current European policy debate are addressed, including how innovative policies are designed in the areas of working time, education, work–life balance, employment relations, retirement and migration, how they are put into practice and what determines their level of success.

Chapter 6: ‘Project-based Employment’ and Models of the Employment Contract

David Marsden

Subjects: economics and finance, labour economics, social policy and sociology, labour policy


David Marsden 6.1 INTRODUCTION The full development of the so-called ‘network economy’ depends upon establishing suitable forms of contracting between firms and workers. The classical employment relationship, open-ended as to both its task content and its duration, came to assume near universality in the advanced industrial world during the 20th century because it succeeded in aligning employees’ psychological expectations, performance incentives and a supportive legal framework. This gave rise to a contractual form which has combined great flexibility and a good deal of enforceability: hence the popularity of the openended employment relationship. It has worked so successfully in the past because it has evolved a number of incentive mechanisms, for shorthand referred to as three types of ‘contract’ (psychological, economic/incentive and legal), all of which seek to deal with the non-codified elements of the relationship that underpin its flexibility. These are complementary and mutually supportive. However, these are embedded within structured patterns of entry and employment progression for a wide range of activities and occupations, and they establish this largely on the expectation of a long-term relationship. The European Commission’s Supiot Report (1999) was among the first to call attention to the fundamental changes occurring in labour markets and the need to develop alternative forms of regulation rather than to try to push back the tide by reinforcing existing patterns of regulation. Supiot and his colleagues sought to reconcile discontinuity of employment with continuity of activity in a chosen occupation, and concentrated on legal mechanisms. In this contribution, I should...

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