Flexibility does not exclude social security, labour ministers say

At their 19-20 January 2006 informal summit, employment and social affairs ministers debated the benefits of the Nordic model of flexicurity, which brings together flexibility of the labour force with a high degree of social security.

The ministers met in the Austrian town of Villach to discuss lessons to be learnt from Denmark, the country which gave birth to the ‘flexicurity’ approach to labour issues, as well as from countries who have somewhat similar approaches and who manage to uphold high standards at the same time as high employment and good social standards.

The Austrian hosts, represented by their ministers Ursula Haubner (Social security, generations and consumer protection) and Martin Bartenstein (Economy), took quite some pride in being able to present themselves as one of these successful countries. 

Addressing the summit, ETUC Secretary General John Monks said: “At the moment, there is a widely held, almost theological belief in too many member states, and in parts of the Commission too, that any regulation will kill off growth and competitiveness and harm employment. That has clearly not been the case in some outstanding European success story countries such as Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Austria.”

Employment Commissioner Vladimír Špidla asked for better co-ordination of social protection measures across the EU, including a closer partnership between member states and the EU with a clearer distribution of roles. He added that the “simplified open method of co-ordination”, to be introduced later this year, was going to “lend more weight to our arguments vis-à-vis your governments, the social partners and the media”.

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