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A concerted policy and its consequences

When we will see that the measures to which the unemployed and more or less insecure workers are confronted in all the countries of the E.U.'15 result from a concerted policy between States at European level...

European Employment policies in the frame of globalisation

Judith Dellheim (Euromärsche Deutschland)

Whoever lives in a capitalistic system has no choice but to enter in a direct or indirect way into the game of competition. Then come the following questions: are we aware of that fact? - Are we looking for or do we defend room for manoeuvre for autonomous and united behaviours? Do we fight this system of competition? Do we develop solidarity, first of all with those who are the most excluded?

We should discuss European employment policy in this background, analyse its contradictions and develop strategies to fight the competition system. As far as the European employment policy is concerned, actually it is only a labour market policy (the point is not to create more jobs, giving decent conditions of living, with a social utility, which thus could be justified in an ecological point of view), four points are fundamental:

  1. Employment policy cannot be separated from the overall European policy. It is in the last resort a neoliberal and militarist policy
  2. It's always a consequence of a pressure from the bottom
  3. also, employment policy always deal with real problems and in the first place, mass unemployment.
  4. It is the result of national policies which are different. Concrete differences might lead to angles of attack for left wing strategies (employment policy in Finland differs from England's)

The history of the employment policy is the one of a competition always growing. This takes the shape of a competition between firms and their employees, between States and economical regions on a worldwide scale. At the same time, the influence of groups and financial markets who became relatively independent increased, and at every level - worldwide - European - European Union - member States of the E.U.- regions and local community, the same happened with the most powerful capital. That is what E.U. and those who have the power wanted. Nethertheless, bureaucrats and governments do not want to accept consequences in its entire scale, including because pressure from the bottom and competition. To be clearer, firms want to succeed in the market and to lower the unit cost price, lower their contribution to society.

But society has been built in such a way that it gives them:

  • skilled enough labour
  • they have at their disposal necessary resources
  • ensures the security of production sites and markets
  • guarantee environmental factors such as clean air and water

So, in order to raise concrete market shares and profits, one has to deregulate and privatise, one has to reduce tax. But society has to function. Governments do fulfil these expectations, they deregulate, privatise, but they want to keep control on society issues. As public income reduces thanks to fiscal presents offered to groups and rich people, they increase the pressure on those who are dependant on social funds, asylum seekers, the poor, unemployed, retired. They demand that each one spend more on education, health, « employability », social welfare, without creating any conditions to give people the means. In order to justify this, we refer to the « conditions ruled by competition between establishment sites ». The E.U does reinforce theses trends, for in the end its policy is designed for the powerful and for those who govern us. When in the spring 2000, in Lisbon our leaders decided to make the E.U the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, most of them were social democrats. They were talking about full employment, sustainable development and social cohesion. What had happened? Mass unemployment and its cost went on growing for years and that is the reason why most of elections finally turned in favour of social democrats. In United States GDP and productivity increased while unemployment was declining. But at the same time in USA, criminality and the number of « working poor » increased also, which was refused by social democrats. The war in Kosovo revealed great technological gaps between European and American weapons systems. Some of the international ecological conferences bothered USA. This led our leaders to take up this challenge, though, they should have known that the one who wants to reach production costs lower than United States firms' cannot achieve necessary social investment – the one who counts on international competition cannot undertake ecological transformation – the one who wants to emerge victorious from international competition, exasperates competitors, increases and exports social problems as well as ecological damage, and reinforces the crucial issues of mankind.

European Union banks on competition and uses its employment policy in order to increase competition:

  1. it forces the unemployed to accept a paid job regardless of the guarantee of a decent life, of the sense of the work
  2. E.U. employment policy seeks to make most people efficient in the labour market, regardless of job creation for a start
  3. It seeks to help people and firms to be good for the global market
  4. It demands more mobility for workers
  5. It punishes those who suffered defeat face to competition

All these five points are worsened by the E.U. enlargement,

  • the role of E.U. in the GATT,
  • concrete activities in non-member countries,
  • challenges to other actors in the global economy,
  • militarization of foreign policy which causes another arms race.

It is precisely thanks to enlargement that our « powerfuls » and our « leaders » seek to take advantage of global competition. They continue to foster competition in the field of employment and thus wage and social democratic dumping because E.U. and its domestic market also growing -the labour market and cheap labour offer increases too – the number of bankruptcies and thus the number of unemployed rise in the countries about to join – E.U. principles of recommendation on For an East – West solidarity of the social movements employment policy are imposed on new members. All this under the slogan « we are creating full employment ». Without ever defining what it means.

In the end, full employment must mean a job allowing everyone who wants, to get the possibility to have an activity able to give a decent living condition, with a sense. The united struggle to defend, reinforce and expand workers and the unemployed’s rights, and to develop economic democracy, constitute the main strategy to make this vision a reality.