Flexicurity is Scandinavian example for European model

Article published on Nov. 25, 2009
Article published on Nov. 25, 2009

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

After its official entry into European institutions, the once obscure term is today more clearly defined. The challenge will be the adaptation of this tried and tested Scandinavian model to other member states

Today the spotlight is on the public politics of the economics sector, especially on employment, and on a more general reform of the work market. The European dimension thus becomes crucially important for joint interventions as well as for the analysis of models which are born in single EU member states.

This is the concept of flexisecurity.

'Flexicurity'

The combination of 'flexibility and security' to which the term refers finds its roots in the model created and developed with success by Scandinavian countries. The term was then adopted in varying degrees - not always with goodwill and often not painlessly - by different EU countries propelled by the desire to increase productivity without compromising the workers’ quality of life.

The idea of flexicurity has its origins in the political debate initiated in the Netherlands in the early nineties, when unemployment visibly decreased and the job market became largely deregulated. But it’s Denmark rather than Holland to which Europe aspires: the way in which Denmark has promoted employment flexibility with the guaranteed care of social well-being is the envy of neighbouring countries. Next to Denmark, Sweden is also held up as a model thanks to its ability to marry a flexible job market with public politics in order to repel social exclusion.

In the 2000-born European concept, 'flexibility' refers to the different stages which distinguish people’s working lives, who are called upon to respond quickly and efficiently to the varying demands made by productive activities, such as work procedures and increasingly diversified skills. 'Security' is also extended beyond the usual guarantees which ensure a work placement or the safeguards to protect against changes in company policies, as well as preserving the existence of subsidies which help to reduce the economic difficulties connected to transition periods and of interruption in employment. The idea of permanent employment is thus moving in this direction. Permanent employment is becoming increasingly important in European politics and is geared to ensure that the individual worker has the opportunity to access training which is tailored to the new demands of an economy in constant evolution.

German and French trade unions were the first to respond: it was clear to them that behind the flexicurity model, as already put into practice for many years in Scandinavian countries, there is a well-tested system of negotiations shared between state institutions, representatives from the business world and workers’ representatives. From its inception to nowadays, however, there has always been one obstacle for flexicurity: the relationship between state, trade unions and business is complex and specific to every single country in the European Union.