Full Employment in Europe
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Full Employment in Europe

Managing Labour Market Transitions and Risks

Günther Schmid

Transitional Labour Markets (TLM) – defined as legitimate, negotiated and politically supported sets of various employment options in critical events over the life course – are an essential ingredient of modern full employment strategies. After assessing the European Employment Strategy, this book offers a detailed comparative analysis of employment performance for selected European member states and the United States. It suggests that successful employment systems arise from a new paradigm of flexibility and security (‘flexicurity’) the balance of which varies according to countries’ institutional paths. Whilst there is no ‘best practice’, TLM theory does provide normative and analytical principles that can be generalised for various institutional settings. The book also provides good practice examples for managing critical transitions over the life course – from education to employment, from one job to another, from unemployment to employment, from private activities to gainful work and from employment to retirement – and develops the contours for extending unemployment insurance to work–life insurance.
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Chapter 4: Beyond Employment Performance: Is the Lisbon Strategy on the Right Track?

Günther Schmid


All happy families are like one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina) The previous chapter revealed that the roots of differences in the performance of employment systems lie deeper than mere differences of labour market or employment policies. In this chapter I intend to test the hypothesis that differences in employment rates also have to do with the way societies value labour market work as a means of enhancing welfare or prosperity. In other words: How ‘full’ should full employment be? As the quotation by Leo Tolstoy suggests, it might be that some societies do not see the ultimate goal to be the maximisation of pleasure through the maximisation of employment as an input for economic prosperity. They might instead see employment partly as an end in itself and therefore put much more emphasis on the quality of jobs in order to minimise the unpleasant features related to work or employment. In other words, they might trade economic growth for growth in rewarding or meaningful jobs. Or, to the extent that unpleasant features of work are unavoidable, they might simply trade work for leisure or for rewarding and meaningful work outside the labour market. The chapter proceeds in three steps. In the first section, I ascertain whether employment systems have identifiably different effects on the various dimensions of economic well-being. Granted, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is not a perfect indicator of economic prosperity,...

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