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Meeting the challenges of economic uncertainty and sustainability through employment, industrial relations, social and environmental policies in European countries

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How market expansion is impacting social citizenship

A group of researchers have explored how growing economic efficiency and innovation can be used to manage economic uncertainty in Europe. Labour market and social policy researchers focused on uncertainty in labour markets across a wide range of policy areas.

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Social policy is increasingly impacted by employment practices and industrial relations as markets continue to gain a stronghold in various areas of governance. While the EU's marketisation agenda is making progress, there is a notable lag in the development of European social citizenship. European integration needs both processes, but the extension of markets often overlooks any negative consequences of economic management activities, such as shocks to economic confidence as a result of uncertainty. This highlights the need for non-market institutions to take care of externalities not related to market transactions. GUSTO is the EU-funded project that studied the process of distributing the gains and burdens of economic uncertainty. The outcomes of this process are expressed through various forms of employment contracts, and labour and social policies. The team analysed several issues related to the management of uncertainty: immigration, pensions, sectoral and local governance of uncertainty (including the field of collective bargaining), the role of the EU and its institutions in dealing with pertinent issues, and the tracking of individuals' experiences of labour markets and social policy. GUSTO aimed to identify the full array of practices and policies governing and distributing protection from economic uncertainty, with a view to appraising the achievements and weaknesses of various policy types. Project members explored how recent changes, including the 2008 crisis, have impacted the standard analysis of different social models among European societies. They also sought to better understand how the relative performance of these models is assessed in line with various indicators of success. Research in the project's key focus areas produced a mass of empirical findings and offered a base for formulating varied policy ideas directed at rebalancing the marketisation project. With the European citizenship agenda seemingly at constant loggerheads with market expansion, resultant imbalances in European policymaking are coming to the fore in the form of resistance by the working population. GUSTO project outcomes will help public policy better respond to social challenges generated by uncertainty as new waves of global marketisation continue unabated. This is paramount to stabilising efforts aimed at Europe-wide solidarity, especially in the current precarious economic climate that is giving rise to vulnerable societies and widespread disillusionment. Although recommendations made by the project are not likely to have an early impact given the strength of current dominant approaches, the evidence produced is certainly a first step in the right direction.

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