Friday 2 September

11:15-12:30 | M3-15
Plenary panel: Towards a European System of Labour Regulation?
Half a century ago, European labour markets were primarily national, dominated by permanent contracts and a male labour force that worked fulltime. How different the situation is nowadays. More and more flexible arrangements are introduced, regarding tenure, hours of work, and location. There has been a strong increase in the number of self-employed people. The participation of women on the labour market has increased dramatically, in many cases accompanied by much more part-time contracts. And even though labour markets are still quite national, the cross-border mobility along border regions, the outflow of people working abroad and in recent years the strong increase of labourers from East-European countries and the rising inflow of immigrants have also contributed to the rise of a new, different, more flexible labour market.

Still, the list is far from complete. In that same after war period, dramatic changes occurred in the sectoral composition of the labour market, out of agriculture and manufacturing into services, in the educational level of employed people, in the technologies applied, and in the level of productivity and wages. This was accompanied by increasing international trade, increasing outsourcing of activities and important changes on the labour market. Many old jobs disappeared; many new jobs were created, resulting in a positive balance of increasing employment.

This development towards increasing dynamics and flexibility in the labour market will continue and intensify. New technologies, new sectors, new firms and new organizational structures are emerging faster and faster. People need to have new qualifications and competencies to remain attractive enough to find new positions. At the same time, most people desire stability with regard to their income, both working and when sick, disabled, unemployed, or retired.
In the last decade, the issue of precarious employment and the dualisation of the labour market has made its way to the political and scientific agendas of governments and scholars in Europe and beyond. On the one hand, flexibility may be considered as a fitting response to the challenges of production processes and service delivery in a globalized, networked economies. At the same time, the divide between precarious and regular employment is ambiguous. According to some, precarious employment might be regarded as a stepping stone towards regular employment whereas others argue that there is a brick wall between precarious employment and regular employment.

The concept of flexicuritiy has been introduced to depict the search for a balance between flexibility and security in the labour market, but European policy responses to the increasing dynamics and flexibility of labour markets diverge. Some countries are combatting rigidities in labour markets and increasingly create freedom for non-standard labour relations, whereas others take steps to regulate or reregulate flexible labour relations. There seems to be no European-shared policy, nor even a vision, on the future of labour relations and the necessity of regulating flexibility. This lack of a European-shared approach hinders the free cross-border flow of labour, detrimental to economic development.

This plenary debate intends to trigger discussions about the future of labour relations and the role of the European Union vis-à-vis member states in the regulation of labour relations.  



Panel members

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