Reinventing the Social Compromise

Reinventing the Social Compromise

Reinventing the social compromise:

new ways of combining flexibility and security of employment

F.Pichault (University of Liège, Belgium/ ESCP-Europe, Paris)

With the current changes of production systems (Veltz, 2000) and their consequences on the labour sphere (De Nanteuil-Miribel, 2006), traditional forms of social regulation are becoming more and more obsolete. The necessity to invent a new “social contract” (Roustang et al, 2000), which would permit an equitable share of the costs of reforms required to relaunch growth in Europe, led to an increasing interest for the concept of flexicurity (Wilthagen & Tros, 2004). The latter appears as a way of overcoming the contradiction that gradually erodes the foundations of the European society: how to maintain of a “welfare” state within a liberalised and deregulated economy (Gazier, 2005)? The concept of flexicurity is promising, as it paves the way for new social compromises between flexibility and security, through a radical evolution of the traditional social protection systems.

However, this concept largely remains non-operational, far away from concrete practices developed on the field. Our paper proposes to complement the current debates on flexicurity via an inductive approach, based on an in-depth observation of emerging initiatives occurring within interorganizational partnerships (Regalia, 2006). This empirical work enables us to propose a series of descriptive variables that help us to decipher the various empirical modalities of new social compromises: the latter may be more or less formalized, deliberate, inclusive, generic, evolutionary, regulated, consistent, etc. Issued from in-depth discussions with various stakeholders on the labour market (unions, employers, employers, public vocational training officers, temporary work agencies, etc.), some of these procedural characteristics may be viewed as contributing to “decent” or desirable arrangements, preserving the general interest. A case study of multi-employership in the logistics sector will help us to illustrate the way in which emerging compromises may evolve in a desirable way, thanks to the critical role played by institutional entrepreneurs (Maguire et al., 2004) like chambers of commerce, local authorities, research centres, etc. We conclude by proposing a new research agenda on such emerging compromises.


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