Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning

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Social Cohesion

Forum 2005: Is it possible to reconcile labour flexibility and social cohesion?

The preparatory work for this forum has shown that this is a difficult, sensitive question, which can be posed from different standpoints, reflecting participants' often diverging interests. It may be a matter of eliminating the "rigidities" inherent in social protection models and labour law in order to balance businesses' need for competitiveness and the unpredictable behaviour of markets. It may also entail adopting new approaches to reconciling employees' need for security and professional assertion with employers' adaptation requirements. Other considerations are achieving a fair distribution of the costs of change and satisfying individual needs for compatibility between work organisation and private life.

This "reconciliation" may be governed by the rules of global market competition or by the principles of social cohesion and the need to ensure equal access to well-being. It accordingly concerns policy choices and power relations that must be rebalanced or brought under control.

The social pact and the welfare state, which have their foundation in the integrating role of work, are in fact based on the concept of lasting mutualisation of benefits, i.e. creation of a win-win situation benefiting both employers and employees, and on collective regulation as a mechanism for reconciling specific interests. However, labour flexibility hits at the heart of the social pact, since it introduces the idea that work may no longer be an entitlement (encompassing the concept of long-term security) but a social condition divorced from the principle of mutualisation of benefits and dependent on the global economic situation. On what terms then can flexibility and social cohesion be reconciled and what could be the substance of a new social regulation process?

The Council of Europe defines social cohesion as the capacity of a society to ensure the welfare of all its members (through institutions, market forces and forms of solidarity specific to the family unit and the community), minimising the effects of polarisation. Social cohesion accordingly encompasses concepts of continuity, of building the long-term future and of democratic processes. (more...)
  Themes covered
The challenges and opportunities of labour flexibility
New forms of labour flexibility: how should labour law evolve?
The effects of labour flexibility and possibilities for reconciliation
Social cohesion Division of the Council of Europe
Federal Public Service for Employment, labour and Social Concertation of Belgium
German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior citizens, Women and Youth
Nordic Council of Ministers
  Related information
Speakers' contributions
Trends in social cohesion, No.15 - Reconciling labour flexibility with social cohesion � Facing the challenge
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