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Labour Markets, Gender and Institutional Change

Essays in Honour of Günther Schmid

Edited by Hugh Mosley and Jacqueline O’Reilly

The original essays in this book have been written by a number of leading international experts in the field of labour market studies to honour the intellectual contribution and lifetime achievement of Günther Schmid.
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Chapter 12: Managing social risks with transitional labour markets

Ton Wilthagen


Ton Wilthagen This chapter deals with some of the social risks that citizens in a modern society face. It is argued, following Giddens, that these risks are to a large extent manufactured, that is produced by collective economic and social processes. The chapter then distinguishes between two distinct approaches to social risks, in particular in the area of sickness absenteeism and incapacity to work. The first approach is labelled a traditional and reactive approach, based solely on compensation for loss of income. The example discussed here is the comprehensive Dutch social security system, which is guided by the principle of risque social rather than risque professionel and deviates significantly from other national systems. The second approach is characterized by a broad and proactive approach to social risks, illustrated by the way transitional labour markets deal with them. It is argued that a transitional labour market approach urges a redefinition of social risks in terms of transition capacities and facilities. Moreover, it is suggested that the model of transitional labour markets be extended to life cycle-guided transitions within employment, aiming to prevent workers from becoming unfit for work or redundant because they can no longer live up to the demands their jobs impose on them. Finally, a case is made for establishing transition agencies in view of the remapping of responsibilities with respect to social risks. MANUFACTURED RISKS In the preface to Reflexive Modernization, Beck et al. (1994, p. vii) explain how the notion of risk is...

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