Edited by Alan Bogg, Cathryn Costello and A. C.L. Davies
Chapter 22: Pension systems and labour law in the EU
The story of the credit crunch of 2007–2008 and the ensuing financial crises in Europe are now well known, if still unfolding. Threats of defaults and insolvency in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain (the ‘PIGS’), harsh austerity measures and fiscal ‘discipline’ imposed on those countries by the Troika – the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – and the varied responses from other EU member states and global financial markets, have produced a perfect storm of falling employment and wages, low economic growth and big cuts to social welfare programmes. The first phase of the crisis signalled, for some commentators, the death knell of the neo-liberal financialized capitalism that had produced it. To others it seemed clear that the crisis would, at least in the short-to-medium term, reinforce the hegemony of the prevailing economic orthodoxy in most advanced capitalist economies, providing the opportunity to impose further fiscal discipline on nation-state economies and ratchet down collective norms of social reproduction in the interests of rebooting financialized accumulation. This perfect storm blew in at a time when many national pension regimes in Europe, and globally, were described as being in crisis. Pension regimes are generally comprised of public and private components across two or three ‘pillars’ or ‘tiers’, and are significant to analyses of European welfare states and labour markets in part because they are a major component of social spending. Yet the effects of low growth and austerity politics in Europe on national pension systems have varied.
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