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The implementation of the EU employment policies in Germany, Italy and Denmark

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EUP (The implementation of the EU employment policies in Germany, Italy and Denmark)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2017-05-31

Unemployment is one of the major challenges that the world economy is facing at present.
The European Union (EU) is trying to cope with this problem by promoting the flexicurity strategy (FLXS).
This strategy aims to conciliate the flexibility requested by companies and the social and employment security needed by workers. One of its main aspects concerns the relevant role recognized to active and passive labour market policies, i.e. the relationship between unemployment benefits and activation initiatives (orientation, vocation training, etc.) for the unemployed. At the same time, the flexicurity concept is vague and ambiguous: this aspect brings difficulties in its implementation, and can have negative implications on the level of protection of unemployed people.

The research project:
(i) analysed the legal implementation (i.) of the FLXS in three Member States: Germany, Italy and Denmark;
ii) formulated Employment Policy Suggestions, considering also other potential approaches to integrate the FLXS.

The issue has an enormous impact on society because if the EU employment policies are well implemented, they can bring advantages for all the EU citizens in terms of achieving stronger labour markets. This is essential to fight unemployment.
The research highlighted which are the problems of the FLXS implementation and which could be the possibilities to be followed by the EU and the Member States to strengthen the protection for the unemployed and achieve more social inclusion.

Milestones. Analysis of:

1) EU Law in activation policies (AP) and unemployment benefits (UB);
2) Danish system in AP and UB and i. of FLXS;
3) German system in AP and UB and i. of FLXS;
4) Italian system in AP and UB and i. of FLXS;
5) Comparison of the three Member States in the legal i. of FLXS + elaboration of Employment guidelines.
Scientific production: 2 books; 4 conference papers; 4 contributions in books; 2 articles in peer review journal; 2 editing of books.
Teaching activities: EU Labour Law Course at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin;
Communication skills: Oral presentations at international conferences/Institutions, e.g. Geneva 2017, ILO; Munich 2016 Max Planck; Rome 2016 SERI; etc.; plenary presentation to team, researchers, students, social partners, Langen Nacht der Wissenschaften; etc.
Networking: International workshop 2016; international conference, 2016 (Humboldt-Universität); WZB Rule of Law Colloquium; BeNa Seminar; etc.
Integration activities: workshop, conference activities, books.

FIRST YEAR: Milestones 1, 2, 3.
In this first year the researcher focused on the European Employment Law and deepened which is the regulation in the field (main key and latest initiatives, e.g. EU Commission´s proposal of a European Unemployment Scheme was also studied). The same year, the researcher analyzed the Danish system: the research showed that the famous Danish system is taking a different direction from its traditional one, which implies also a slight downsizing of insurance unemployment benefits and in terms of quality of activation policies. Denmark seems to re-orient the system towards a contractualization of social right, i.e. the unemployed should receive an unemployment benefit or subsidiary in the case copes with activation initiatives. After completing the Danish part, the research started to study the German system. The Harzt reforms brought a new legal architecture and focused on the contractualization of social right, with several critics from the legal doctrine. At the same time, affords were made to make the public employment services stronger and more efficient. The reorganization of the unemployment benefits and subsidiaries brought several critics, especially in cutting some unemployment benefits.

SECOND YEAR: Milestones 3, 4, 5.
During the second year, the researcher deepened her knowledge of the German system and highlighted the complexity of the last reforms in the field. In particular, the Hartz reforms seem to be, in a certain measure, consistent with the EU guidelines, but to a deeper analysis it was clear that Germany didn´t always follow the EU employment guidelines. For example, problems with mini-jobs are still relevant.The tendency of a flexibility path instead of a flexibility + security ones, was evident in studying the Italian system. The divergences between European employment guidelines and their domestic implementation were even clearer in the Italian system than in the Danish and German ones. This tendency was pointed out also to a international workshop the researcher organized in June 2016. Then in September 2016 she organized an international conference to address the current challenges of the European employment policies.
The flexicurity strategy was officially launched in 2007 with the aim of conciliating social protection and flexibility’s requests.
Since an analysis of the specific process of legal implementation and adaptation of the EU strategy to national systems was lacking, the project provided finally a legal research concerning such implementation. The research outcomes:

1) show the difficulties to implement the flexicurity strategy at the domestic level. The implementation of this strategy should be achieved through a soft law method (148 TFEU), which is not legally binding, but just politically. The research shows that the political commitment, which the nation governments are expected to observe, seems to be weak. Thus, Member States can refer in their national reform plans and reforms just vaguely to the EU employment guidelines, by referring to some of them and ignoring others, by highlighting some aspects instead of others.

2) The flexicurity strategy is a vague container for being an effective driving policy for the Member States. The research shows that Member States can interpret this concept in a way that can be unbalanced between the two side of the flexibility and the security. With this regard, the research shows that the “security” part of the flexicurity has been often downplayed in comparison to the flexibility part.

3) The project-results are relevant in the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, a new EU plan which aims to set out a number of key principles/rights to support fair/well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. Thus, the research outcomes of the project provide useful indications for this new EU challenges. In particular, they show:

- The need for avoiding a misuse of the soft law: the research showed this negative effect in the flexicurity implementation;

- The need for more “hard law”, or directives in regulating the field, to set minimum standard;

- The need to strengthen the “social dimension” of the EU and the need to re-gain legitimation in the eyes of the citizens;

- The need to set clear responsibilities – not just political but also juridical (hard law) - between the actors implementing the EU employment policies;

- A common tendency in all the reforms of the Member States under analysis can be highlighted towards a work firs approach instead of a human capital approach, i.e. push the unemployed in any job, without investing in their vocational training;

- The tendency to abandon the insurance system and the risk towards a poverty status: Germany and Denmark are orienting their systems towards a fostering of assistance and a weakening of insurance unemployment benefits.
Conference at the Humboldt Faculty of Law, 23rd Sept. 2016