The EU was already in its incorporation in 1993 and had an increase in the number of unemployed. Although the Union has no regulatory competence in social policy, a similar development has been observed in many countries over the years: instead of taking the state responsible for the sufficient number of jobs, for the division of jobs, the division of the Forcing work by reducing working hours or even building up alternative fields of employment was, as if out of nowhere, a change of dogma in many countries.
The abrupt introduction of Hartz IV in 2004 was the most evident. The blueprint for policy was provided by the 1996 “OECD Jobs Strategy “, which was promoted by the Danish Presidency in 1997 under the slogan “activation”.
The following basic assumptions or beliefs are behind it:
– Wage work is the best remedy against poverty.
The labour market is inflexible – social security and workers' rights are an obstacle.
Growth promotes jobs - jobs promote growth.
The old “active employment policy” of the 1980s became the “activating labour market policy”:
– The reason for unemployment is no longer a lack of jobs, but rather that the opportunities of the free market are not being exploited.
– Instead of politics, each individual is responsible for his own fate as a market participant.
– Instead of the solidarity of all (reduction of working hours), ownership in competition, differentiation is considered to be the highest value.
– Under the motto “no right to laziness”, the ‘right to work and social security’ becomes the duty to be promoted and demanded by carers.
– Instead of increasing wages in the case of a shortage of “workers” according to the pull principle, the push principle prevails in the form of even more pressure.
– Instead of placement in full and regularly paid work on the “first labour market”, improved proximity to the labour market, precarious temporary or part-time work or work on the “second labour market” is considered a success.
What is not questioned, but is almost escalated, is that “integration” is only possible through gainful employment, the unemployed are not independent political actors and, of course, that the capitalist economic and social system is compatible with the pressure to grow must not be called into question. As compensation, “Decent Work” is promised.
What has been more or less evident since then, at least in the core states of the EU:
reducing the reference time and reducing the reference level,
tightening the sanctions regime,
– deterioration of the criteria for ‘reasonable jobs’, precarious work becomes reasonable,
- the development of the ‘second labour market’ with reduced rights (‘Workfare’);
– Outsourcing tasks to private, for-profit agencies – “price industry”, sometimes even listed on the stock exchange!
In order to avoid alternatives, the areas of the “social state” are more closely interlinked:
- linking social assistance to the tightened regime of the Employment Agency,
– tightening of access to the invalidity pension, even disabled people are declared “fit 2 work” (UK),
– deterioration in the retirement pension, increase in the retirement age,
increased data collection and automatic data exchange,
support for private social security schemes (pension provision),
Reducing open spaces and exit opportunities.
Basic human rights, including collective human rights, become individual duties:
– “Every man is born equal in rights and dignity and therefore has the right to freely chosen good work” becomes “man acquires his dignity only through work. Work at all costs is a civic duty”.
– Instead of the right to health and free choice of treatment, the obligation to maintain “work ability” and forced rehabilitation with case management becomes the obligation.
– The presumption of innocence becomes the presumption of guilt: the unemployed person himself is to blame for unemployment, deficit orientation (“obstacles to placement” = individual attribution of debt).
– restriction of privacy and the right to self-determination,
– a tendency to replace established rights and obligations with ‘agreements’ on an unequal power basis,
- higher barriers to access to the law.
The EU’s lack of regulatory competence will be offset by the Open Method Coordination in 2000 as part of the Lisbon Strategy. The agencies, conferences, investigations and reports with which EU states are praised or reprimanded are growing almost cancerous. In the “European Semester”, the EU calls for higher employment rates, especially for non-market groups such as women, the elderly, those with health problems and migrants.
Outside the core EU states, the expensive “activation” is less of a problem. In 2016, the European Commission launched a “Public Consultation on Services for the Long-Term Unemployed”. Only in English.
More and more people are being driven into the labour market in the name of economic growth and the fight against poverty. As far as possible, all areas of life, especially the “unproductive”, are transformed into poorly paid, precarious gainful employment. Work subsidised at the expense of policyholders and tax payers is being thrown into companies cheaply like dirt.
All stakeholders (partners) are involved in the profit-promising web of activating labour market policy and have lobby groups in Brussels. All? Except for the persons concerned themselves; the unemployed. Unemployment initiatives do not receive resources for EU-wide networking.
The hurdles for project funding are too high. For this purpose, the EAPN (European Anti-Poverty Network) has a fig leaf of the social sector once a year in Brussels, where politicians can listen to selected flagship arms. All far from the european Parliament’s control.
Political responsibility disappears in the institutional network worked by the lobbyist groups. Not even the “European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights” should take a critical look at the state of the EU’s ‘social human rights’ in the form of studies and reports.
How wonderful. The social is what remains, if at all …