Labour market policies are in a state of flux. As a consequence of the economic crisis that began in late 2008, many countries are now confronted with the prospect of a sustained period of low economic growth and persistently high unemployment, as well as the task of stabilizing the public finances. Many policy-makers view labour market reform as an essential ingredient in solving these problems. While the intensity of economic pressures and the content of policies continue to vary substantially between countries, there is a widespread tendency towards further liberalization of labour markets, erosion of social protections and workfare-oriented employment policy reforms. This chapter is organized in two substantive parts. The first part provides an overview of the labour policies introduced following the start of the crisis in 2008 and the experiences of different countries. The second part follows the shifting concerns of policy-makers over time, as their focus turned towards the questions of how to stimulate new economic growth and how to address the levels of public debt amassed during the initial stages of the crisis. It examines these concerns, and their implications for labour policy, with particular reference to the experiences of the UK, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Germany. The ‘jobs crisis’ that has unfolded since 2008 has had a number of dimensions, the most prominent of which has been an escalation in unemployment. As can be seen from Figure 3.1, almost every OECD country, the only exceptions being Poland and Germany, experienced an increase in the rate of unemployment over the period 2007–2009.
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