Employment and Social Quality

The policy area of employment
A project concerning nine EU Member States

In 2001 the EFSQ was commissioned by DG Employment and Social Affairs of the European Commission to apply the first design of the social quality theory to the policy area of employment in nine Member States. This resulted from the previous studies on employment and the second main book on Social Quality. The main thrust of the research concerned the significance of the ‘adaptability-pillar’ of European employment policies. The objective was to elaborate and apply the concept of adaptability to Europe’s labour markets and especially to assess the tension between flexibility in working time and employment security. It referred to the conditional factors of social inclusion, and socio-economic security.

The project chose the area of flexicurity as its core focus. This involves the lifelong combination of secure and flexible employment and lies at the heart of the partnership for a new work organization. Ultimately, secure employment comes down to employability, to a worker’s employability throughout her/his career, whether she/he works for only one employer or for more than one. The challenge was to recognise or to determine functional indicators of flexicurity as a domain of adaptability and to link them to the social quality approach. The procedure was to distinguish between its sub-domains and to choose the indicators to explore the changes in these sub-domains. By applying these functional indicators (or monitoring devices) the research found a rise in flexibility (in terms of contracts and employment conditions and of temporary work) which is not, or not systematically, tied to an updating of the conditions of security (socio-economic security). Furthermore they found that in the post-war era women’s growing participation in the labour market has put increasing strains on the performance of care work (which generally is not taken on board by men). This has highlighted an inherent fundamental inequity and prevents the inclusion of women in other aspects of society (social inclusion). It is society’s collective responsibility to alter the imbalance in traditional societal arrangements and to organise the sharing out of care work, as well as its adequate remuneration and fiscal and societal recognition.

This final conclusion – the question of this fundamental inequity –  paved the way for a new theoretical step, proposed by the participants of the Project. First we should make a distinction between functional indicators (or monitoring devices) to explore policy areas and indicators to analyse the changes in the conditional factors in societies. Second, the latter indicators (thus social quality indicators) are necessary but not sufficient to determine (in a quantitative sense) the nature of social quality in communities. Profiles for a qualitative  exploration of cognitive and emotional aspects – the so-called constitutional factors – are important as well.  Furthermore we need ethical standards – or normative factors – to judge the outcomes of the linking of the quantitative and qualitative oriented explorations with the help of criteria. This new step enhanced the theory of social quality in a decisive way.

Publications on the SQ Employment project

In project collaboration with

ISS, Part of Erasmus University - The Hague, the Netherlands

EURISPES - Institute of Political, Economic and Social Studies - Rome, Italy

Zhejiang University - Hangzhou, China