Flexibility and Employment Security in Europe
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Flexibility and Employment Security in Europe

Labour Markets in Transition

Edited by Ruud Muffels

This book seeks to gain a better understanding of the paradoxical relationship between the alleged need of European labour markets to become more flexible and the way in which national policies pursue this aim without jeopardising existing high standards of income and employment security. Special interest is devoted to the way in which countries opt for different policy routes to cope with the aim of balancing flexibility and security goals in their respective labour market and social protection policies. The contributions in this book all try to unveil the particular changes or transitions occurring in the various labour markets, to learn about their medium and longer term effects and the role of institutions and policies to cushion the adverse consequences of these changes. By studying some ‘best practices’ in Denmark, Canada and Australia they also draw some important lessons about the reasons why national policies might either fail or better cope with the challenges Europe face today.
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Chapter 2: There is More to Job Quality than ‘Precariousness’: A Comparative Epistemological Analysis of the ‘Flexibility and Security’ Debate in Europe

Jean-Claude Barbier


Jean-Claude Barbier 2.1 INTRODUCTION Given the normative European Employment Strategy (EES) discourse, it would be crucial to measure to what extent the flexibility of work and of employment relationships1 and the accompanying forms of security (basically of one’s job, income and entitlement to social protection) are compatible and effectively contribute to the promotion of ‘quality jobs’ as opposed to ‘poor jobs’. It is striking that research in economics and sociology has so far shown only limited interest and capacity to take up this task appropriately. For lack of adequate indicators, but also for lack of adequate concepts, it is still really difficult to objectively assess the prevalence of quality jobs across Europe. It is certainly true that a wide range of increasingly comparable indicators is available now at EU-level. In Laeken in December 2001, in the context of the EES, quality indicators devised by the Employment Committee (EmCo) were adopted by the Council of the EU and they have been used ever since, although their documentation is still far from being homogenous. This was followed by an important communication on the ‘quality of work’ by the Commission, encompassing a wide range of subjects (European Commission, 2001, Com (2001) 313 final). At the time of writing, it was difficult to assess what sort of influence this approach would eventually retain within the new framework formally adopted on the 12th of July 2005. However, several EG guidelines include explicit references to dimensions related to ‘quality in work’.2 32 Flexibility and Employment Security...

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