Policy Study

13/04/2016

European labour markets currently fail millions for whom they cannot provide work, and millions more who must face job insecurity, underemployment, stagnant wages or poverty pay. The forces which have served to weaken our labour markets include political failure, globalisation, technological change, labour union decline and the increasing power of capital vis-à-vis labour. Ominously, each of these forces look likely to accelerate, rather than abate. This is – clearly – a particular problem for a movement so historically and closely bound up with the labour movement, and labour rights. Given this, it is imperative that European socialists look beyond their existing prescriptions for labour markets. We may have lost the recent history of labour, but it is essential we reclaim the future.

This paper identifies and develops four new areas which policymakers may seek to exploit. Firstly, we assess the potential for strengthening labour markets through a renewed focus on international solidarity – including deepening cross border cooperation with labour organisations and learning from best practice both in and outside of Europe. Secondly, we consider the options for strengthening the position of migrant labourers within the EU – a policy which serves to not only build solidarity within Europe, but also begin to mitigate the race to the bottom which characterises man sectors of European Labour markets.

We also consider the possibility of developing Europe’s industrial strategy such that it becomes capable of coordinating the development of capacity and innovation – and in so doing, securing the kind of work that (particularly young) European workers often seek. And in the same vein, we conclude by arguing that the European left must look much more closely at developing a basic income style proposal of its own. Such a policy, we argue, offers the prospect of the most radical and effective rebalancing of Europe’s labour market. We argue that much of the leftist scepticism over a basic income is misplaced, and that suitably defined – the policy represents an invaluable pro-socialist and pro-labour option for the future.

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Karl Renner Institut
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