European labour market policies in (the) crisis

In a comparative study we – Daniel Clegg and Jochen Clasen from Edinburgh University and myself – find that developments in European labour market policies provide grounds for both optimism and pessimism. While observing no substantial evidence of a return to the “labour shedding” policies of the 1980s, we do identify a retrenchment of labour market policy in some states, including Denmark, the country that, in the 2000s, was so vaunted in this respect as a model for others to follow.


We made the study for the European Trade Union Institute. We studied six EU member states (the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom) and observed different response patterns depending on the interpretative framing – or ‘narrative’ – of the crisis. In the first phase of the crisis, all countries expanded their labour market policy efforts. As crisis deepened, however, there was a clear bifurcation between those states that stepped up structural reforms intended to reduce labour market segmentation and those that turned to a more aggressive agenda of retrenchment. However, as we speak, important developments keep unfolding in many countries making any firm conclusions difficult to reach.