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In Search of a European Employment Strategy: the Construction of the “Job Quality

Abstract : The European Employment Strategy (EES) is a key pillar of risk management at the European level. It was first introduced to cope with the risk of unemployment, and extended later to the risk of non-employment, with an increasing focus on activation and the need for maximising the employment rate of the working age population. But since the beginning of the 1990s, the qualitative dimension of employment growth has also become a cause for concern at the European level. Getting a job of bad quality is indeed a social risk which must be taken into account. It may have consequences on a worker’s income level, job satisfaction, career prospects, and affect well-being as well as physical or psychological health. The ‘job quality’ agenda was first introduced in 2001 and has had fluctuating fortunes, from having a central role to official neglect. The topic is highly political as well as technical. It deals with key aspects of everybody’s working lives, such as wages, working conditions, employment security, gender equality, the importance of part-time work, access to training and career progression, and so on , and it interferes with other European priorities such as ‘activation’. It also involves the choice, implementation and use of a common set of statistical indicators, and is a typical area of dialogue among experts and debate involving different stakeholders at European level: Member States and the European Commission, but also social partners. Overall, the ‘job quality’ agenda is a good illustration of the construction of an important component of the EES, in terms of its conception and implementation. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the evolution of this agenda. The corresponding field of research is heterogeneous and burgeoning, and includes official reports at the EU level, as well as a related ‘grey’ literature (memoranda, notes, etc.), policymakers’ initiatives and debates at various levels, along with other actors’ reactions (such as union leaders) and proposals. Three methodological choices have been made, in order to keep this diffuse set of information and data manageable. The first is to focus on the EU-level elaboration process, and to add some selected complementary observations made at national and/or regional levels. The second is to exploit the considerable variations which occurred during the decade 2001−2011, in order to explore the changing content and meaning of the ‘job quality’ agenda. The persisting difficulties of EU construction in the 2000s, as well as the current economic crisis which exploded in 2008, may be seen as revealing processes, through which the objective has been re-examined and re-evaluated almost permanently. The third is to link official documents to the comments of concerned actors or informed observers. These views are collected either from the existing literature or by interview. The chapter is organised in three sections. Section 5.1 develops a framework to analyse the EES ‘soft’ governance process under review, and to analyse the interactions between political targets and indicators that make up the political agenda. The second section focuses on the difficulty of constructing such an agenda for the ‘job quality’ objective at the European level, in terms of a conceptual (or cognitive) framework, operational indicators and political priorities. Section 5.3 introduces other governance levels (Member States, regions, social partners), and briefly considers how the corresponding actors interact with the European ‘job quality’ agenda.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 11:05:02 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 11:08:30 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01301805, version 1



Christine Erhel, Jérôme Gautié, Bernard Gazier. In Search of a European Employment Strategy: the Construction of the “Job Quality. Jean-Claude Barbier; Fabrice Collomb; Ralf Rogowski. The Sustainability of the European Social Model, Edward Elgar, 2015. ⟨halshs-01301805⟩



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