Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Opinion

Flexicurity - further erosion of workers' rights?

  • Flexicurity - a good system in high-tech rich regions but less so for poorer regions (Photo: EUobserver)

The Danish EU Presidency has seen the supposed advantages of flexicurity to tackle unemployment, to raise the EU´s competitiveness and to overcome the current crisis once more come to the fore.

This was to be expected. In Denmark, where the model is largely viewed as being successful, flexicurity is seen as a solution to almost all employment ills.

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Due to its positive experiences in the past, Copenhagen expects much of flexicurity. It is supposed to create more competitiveness in the EU through more flexibility for employers, while maintaining high social protection standards for employees.

However, flexicurity is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The concept – unquestionably good in theory – reveals itself to be less convincing when it comes to its application within the framework of different socio-economic realities and differently shaped labour markets (the competencies for which remain largely in national hands).

So while may prove successful in wealthier high-tech regions with a highly-qualified workforce, a generally low unemployment rate and a functioning social dialogue (such as Denmark), it will certainly be less effective - and perhaps counterproductive in terms of social and employment protection - in poorer regions characterised by traditional industries and high levels of structural unemployment.

There, flexicurity could simply mean a socially acceptable way for employers to reduce job protection regulation and to make cuts regarding unemployment beneifts and working conditions as well as pay and company pensions schemes.

Such measures may be create (short-term) employment, but two major requirements of the European macro-economies in the present crisis - high sustainable employment rates and highly qualified employees - would be neglected.

Sustainable labour market measures must take into account the quality of work relations and working conditions.

In his speech at Stanford University in October 2008 former Danish Prime Minister and President of the Party of European Socialists (PES, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, himself pointed to the risks of flexibility speaking of the “rising inequalities, between rich and poor, between the young and the old, [and] of failing cohesion in an increasingly diverse population…”.

Making the right choices depends on the socio-economic indicators of each region. Yet, since dismissal protection laws can be changed swiftly by the legislator while active sustainable labour market policies need more time, investment and effort, a rather undifferentiated approach favoring flexicurity throughout Europe is more likely.

This approach risks leading to further social economic disparities, adding fuel to the fire in times when the EU is already under great strain.

The writer is Secretary General of the Confédération Européenne des Syndicats Indépendants

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