Flexicurity: Europe's employment solution?


Flexicurity, first developed as a labour market policy in the Nordic countries, has been endorsed by EU leaders and the European Commission as a way of solving the Union's employment problem. However, as a new Commission faces up to Europe's worst recession for many decades, doubts have emerged as to how committed member states are towards flexicurity and making it work across the EU. 

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European labour markets are generally considered to be too rigid. Making labour market rules more flexible while at the same time providing a good level of social protection is one of the main challenges of the EU's long-term vision for economic, social and environmental reform (the so-called 'EU 2020' goal – see EurActiv 19/11/09).

Since the early 2000s, flexicurity - a combination of easy hiring and firing rules combined with high benefits for the unemployed and a pro-active labour market policy - has become the vehicle of choice for EU policymakers on the road to continuing labour market reform.

However, the diversity of situations at national level means that a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to flexicurity in Europe is problematic. To tackle this problem and unearth ways to make the policy work in different national contexts, the European Commission launched a 'Mission for Flexicurity', the results of which were presented in December 2008.

While the consultation results reaffirmed the EU's commitment to the policy, the simultaneous worsening of Europe's financial and economic crises has called into question whether the new Commission, which begins its five-year term in early 2010, will have enough tools and support at its disposal to push for continued reform.