Thursday, 5 March 2009

European Social Model 2009

Regulatory competition, EU enlargement and economic globalisation, have all placed considerable pressures on the European Social Model. These pressures have been exacerbated by the recent financial crisis- with rising levels of public debt and decreasing levels of public expenditure across EU members states compounded by the collapse of currencies and banking systems across the globe.

In light of these pressures and with many EU states now clearly failing to meet the Lisbon Strategy’s targets it is imperative that the European Social Model is reformed.

The objectives of the Lisbon Agenda have shaped recent debates within the EU that stress the importance of competitiveness and innovation of the EU economy as a whole. But these objectives have been considerably undermined, and essentially made redundant, due to the impact of the recent financial crisis and the subsequent shift in priorities of European governments.

Much work needs to be done to reform pension provision, tackle unemployment and protect workers rights, integrate women better into the workforce, to raise secondary level educational participation, promote life long learning and reduce EU poverty in order to build the competitive knowledge based economy that Lisbon envisaged.

The current socio-economic challenges that face Europe and its people can not be addressed by states alone and must be addressed collectively as a regional project. The recent financial crisis has exposed the folly of standing alone in a globalised world- just look at what happened to Iceland who are now crying out for the security of EU membership. These news challenges are macro-economic, and micro-economic, there are external, and internal.

The European Social Model aspires to a certain type of society, a knowledge based society that is entrenched in the Social Europe Agenda. But to meet these challenges the European Social Model must reform and redefine itself in a Europe that is increasingly under pressure from the outside and within.

One notable aspect of the economic crisis is that it has highlighted that European-level regulation is as important as ever. EU regulations must now be used to foster solidarity and cooperation between EU member states at this time of crisis. Only through cooperation and solidarity can Europe survive this financial quagmire, we can not stand alone.

This solidarity can be achieved by the promotion of regulations to address the renewal of the European Social Model. The decision last December by the EU Parliament to revise and address the opt-out clauses of the EU Working Time Directive is one positive example of this.

Reform of the European Social Model must tackle issues of job quality; skills, life-long learning and career development; gender equality; health and safety at work; flexibility and security; inclusion and access to the labour market; work organisation and work-life balance; social dialogue and worker involvement; diversity and non-discrimination and finally overall economic performance and productivity.

The need to reform the ESM is apparent. In key areas EU member states are falling behind non-EU states such as Norway, Switzerland and the US, particularly in respect to Research & Development.

Reform of the European Social Model must not negate the Social Europe Agenda but must reaffirm this agenda through a process of competitive solidarity. It is important that the economic crisis is not used as an excuse to dilute social standards. Strong social standards are an important tool in fighting poverty and social exclusion- necessary ingredients for addressing the current economic malaise.

No comments:

Post a Comment