The Impact of Policy Retrenchment in Europe
Edited by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead
Chapter 1: Public sector shock in Europe: Between structural reforms and quantitative adjustment
The public sector has always been considered a cornerstone of European societies and, as such, also an essential lever for economic growth and political stability. It is also considered to be an essential element of the European Social Model, with many EU provisions serving as a useful framework for the good functioning of the public sector in EU member states. The public sector also represents a priority for public budgets. It is certainly also because of its central role that the public sector has been the constant object of reforms and restructuring over recent decades. All European countries have gone through a series of restructurings and reforms of their public sector and public expenditure. However, of late we have experienced what we might call a ‘public sector shock’. The budget deficits with which most European countries find themselves – and which have been aggravated, even provoked and fuelled by the latest financial and economic crisis, which started in 2008 – have plunged the public sector into a wave of ‘adjustments’, unprecedented not only in terms of their pace but also the scale of the attendant cuts in expenditure, employment and wages.
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