‘Austerity versus Social Europe: Neoliberal labor market reforms on the Mediterranean’
11 December 2015, Hamilton House, University of Greenwich.
12:00 Lunch and welcome
The European Social Model is offers in theory a high levels of social protection, social dialogue, and public services, with an aim of ‘social cohesion’. However, the picture emerging from labour market reforms in Southern European countries casts a shadow on this idea and raises the prospect of neoliberal convergence. This paper explores changes in labour market regulations, in Italy, Spain and Greece, with special attention to the role of European institutions in shaping national policies and pushing governments towards ‘ideal’ levels of flexibility and employment protection legislation. This review aims to contribute to the debate about the continuity of the distinctive characteristics of the European Social Model: can they survive to the progressive deregulation of labour markets and commodification of labour itself? Are European institutions actually pushing member states away from that model?
This paper seeks to map and compare change in labour markets regimes in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece in the aftermath of the financial crisis. While the extent of austerity policies in terms of fiscal retrenchment in these countries has been the subject of much interest, we still lack an overall picture of change in the areas of employment protection, income compensation, minimum wages, education and collective bargaining, and how reforms pushed by international financial institutions have reshaped institutional complementarities. Contradicting arguments supporting the idea that markets adapt more quickly than top-down political control, we show how greater state intervention prior to the crisis fostered swifter change in the face of private sector resistance, even on the side of employers. Hence, the greater reliance of Mediterranean economies on the state to compensate for the weak coordination capacity of economic actors made them particularly vulnerable to change in the context of the crisis of state finances.
This paper adresses questions regarding the governance of austerity experience in Greece under the memorandum agreements signed between the Greek government and the so-called Troika. First, the bail-out packages and the austerity measures that accompanied them are considered as reflections of the global financial markets’ deregulation, as well as the fundamental assumptions of the Eurozone project’s architecture. Second, the historical evolution of the crisis experience in Greece is examined; a special focus is placed on the ways consecutive governments responded to the austerity challenge, as well as the societal reactions to it. The impact of the electoral shift that occurred in January 2015, with the rise of left-wing party SYRIZA to power, is evaluated. Finally, the paper addresses the impact of the crisis on specific social, political and economic institutions, in an effort to provide an in-depth understanding of how the crisis altered the socio-political landscape of Greece.
This workshop was free of charge, part of the research project ‘the Effects of Marktization on Societies: The Case of Europe (TEMS)’ funded by the European Research Council (313613).