The ghost of precarity in employment

Experts analyze the effects of precarity and present study on 'flexicurity'

News / 05.3.19

What is flexicurity?

Flexicurity is a concept that combines the notion of flexibility for businesses with the economic and social security for the worker. The idea is to balance the interests and needs of governments, businesses and trade unions to guarantee the benefits of the welfare state.

“Flexicurity as a labour policy must be applied on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the institutional, sectoral and business context of each state”, stresses Professor Montse Solé, the author of the study “Flexisecurity as a labor policy: A comparative analysis”.

The study analyzes the cases of Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, taking into account the economic, social and concerted structures of each country. It also reflects on what lessons can be extracted for Catalonia.

Job insecurity and social justice

Precariousness is especially affecting younger generations, who are over-represented in the NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), which can lead to long-term job insecurity and social exclusion.  “Young people are in a continuous transition between unemployment, precarious work as self-employed workers and the NEET situation”, explains Mihaela Vancea.

The so-called NEET phenomenon is not a static phenomenon, removed from the global problem of precariousness, and it cannot be simple resolved by involving individuals in new training or work opportunities, as it requires addressing other issues like time poverty and low salaries.

“If we want to tackle the problem, we must treat it with a social justice approach and not as a problem of lack of individual skills,” he adds.

How can we deal with precarity?

What is needed are strong social policies and family reconciliation, as students and workers often abandon their ambitions to take care of young, old and sick family members. In the context of Catalonia, some students are also dropping out of university, because the business sector lures them into work before completing their degrees and they end up with little training and low salaries.

However, other issues are also at play. According to Professor Vancea, “to fight insecurity, we must focus on structural inequalities, rather than on the individual deficiencies of those who suffer it”.

This includes increasing salaries, expanding social protections, devoting more efforts to collective bargaining, reforming the educational system to support the most vulnerable, and progressively adapting the labour market to technological changes to reduce the negative impact on workers.

“To fight insecurity, we must focus on structural inequalities, rather than on the individual deficiencies of those who suffer it.” – Professor Mihael Vancea.

“We are in an economic-social system that promotes the interests of employers to the detriment of the worker, and where trade unions are seen as liabilities,” argues Francisco Xavier González Sío, the confederal secretary of collective bargaining of the IGC.

“We need social and economic institutions that are sufficiently representative and participatory in nature, so that we can create spaces for collective bargaining that truly reflect the real needs of the workers,” adds Josep Ginesta, Secretary General of Labor, Social Affairs and Families in Catalonia.

The debate on precarity and flexicurity, co-organised by the Coppieters Foundation and Foundation Josep Irla, took place on 19 December 2018 at the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona.

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The conference was financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conference or the opinions of the speakers.

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