Labour market, flexicurity, informal economy

Employment creation as a labour market reform needs to focus on creating more and better quality jobs, protecting vulnerable workers and reducing precarious work across Europe, and on investment in the quality of the workforce through lifelong learning, gender equality and social dialogue at all levels. Such an approach can enable Europe be tackle the challenge of global competition whilst avoiding self-defeating social dumping.

“Flexicurity" describes a form of labour market organisation that combines a flexible labour force able to adapt to new markets and technologies, with security that guarantees workers’ living and working standards. It also implies more flexibility in people’s working time, enabling them to combine employment with family and other responsibilities. The notion of flexicurity originated from the successful models in the Netherlands, Denmark and other Nordic countries.

The current flexicurity debate tends to favour business at the expense of workers, placing a greater emphasis on relaxing rules for hiring and firing, on dismantling labour standards and job protection, and imposing tough conditions for social support, thereby providing business with the opportunity to downgrade the quality of jobs and employment contracts.

The informal, “shadow” or “grey” economy is one of the main challenges for the development of trade unionism and often acts as a barrier to attracting new members in trade union organisations. It has been adopted de facto as an integral part of the neo-liberal model for transformation in Eastern Europe. It has taken on various forms, ranging from survival strategies to criminal cases and has exerted a distorting influence on the operation of labour market institutions, undermining the stability of social protection systems and fragmenting the common interests of working people.

The PERC, with support from the FNV, has started a three-year project aimed at developing understanding of the mechanics of the informal economy in different contexts and developing potential trade union approaches for curbing and rolling back its influence.