Employment Protection, Unemployment Compensation and Activation in Europe
Edited by Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils
Chapter 4: The United Kingdom
Jochen Clasen INTRODUCTION: A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRIANGLE1 The type of, and the interaction between, employment protection, active labour market policy and unemployment benefit support in the UK bears little resemblance to other countries covered in this book. Despite a moderately expansionist trend since 1997, the current government is anxious to maintain a deregulated and flexible labour market. The UK has one of the lowest levels of individual employment protection in Europe, benefits for the unemployed continue to be rather modest and spending on active labour market policy remains relatively low, with longer training courses or subsidized employment playing a minor role, while job search, intensive counselling and individual case management have been emphasized. Also unchanged is the top-down centralized policy model. There is no institutional involvement of the social partners in policy making which goes beyond information and consultation in questions of employment law. Rather than established tripartite talks as elsewhere in Europe, employers are primarily seen as partners in policy implementation. The architecture of and the interaction between the three policy domains reviewed in this chapter have to be understood within the context of a distinctive political economy. The fields of social insurance and industrial relations elsewhere in Europe might be regarded as ‘tightly coupled’ (Manow 1997; Hemerijck et al. 2000) with benefits functioning as a ‘social wage’, or wage replacement benefits rendered by employment-based contributions, complemented by a high level of employment protection. No such link exists in the UK where the term ‘social wage’ makes little...
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