The Labour Market Triangle

The Labour Market Triangle

Employment Protection, Unemployment Compensation and Activation in Europe

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils

Currently, European governments are being challenged to find an optimal social policy strategy that fosters 'flexicurity’, whereby a flexible, well-functioning labour market is achieved, whilst protection for workers is maintained. This fascinating book presents an in-depth study of the particular combination of unemployment insurance, employment protection and active labour market policies prevalent in seven European countries. The editors explore the formal laws and regulations, as well as the administration and implementation of social policy, paying special attention to the role of the social partners. The country comparison shows that the combination of social policy instruments is important to labour market performance, but that multiple optimal mixes already seem to exist.

Chapter 1: Introduction: Achieving an Optimal Social Policy Mix

Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils

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


Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils A PARADIGM SHIFT IN SOCIAL POLICY: FROM PASSIVE TO ACTIVE MEASURES Since the 1990s it has become more or less conventional wisdom in most European countries that the predominant passive character of social policy should be replaced by more active measures. The welfare state that was built up in the post-Second World War period in Western Europe might have been quite successful in reducing poverty and providing income protection, but it proved unable to cope with the sharp rise of unemployment and the rapidly increasing numbers of benefit claimants after the oil shocks of the 1970s. Moreover, in the 1990s it became widely accepted that the rising number of beneficiaries was at least partly caused – or aggravated – by the passive character of the welfare state. From a failing solution to the problem of a malfunctioning economy, the welfare state became the problem itself. During the 1990s, two main approaches were advocated to tackle the problems of the welfare state. The first was the (neo)liberal approach of welfare state retrenchment. To put it bluntly, this approach tries to remedy the flaws of the welfare state by reducing it and creating more room for the market and the private provision of income insurance. The main weakness of this approach is, of course, that it neglects the reasons why the welfare state was introduced in the first place, that is, to compensate for market failures. Shifting the responsibility for social protection from the state back to...