Meeting the challenges of economic uncertainty and sustainability through employment, industrial relations, social and environmental policies in European countries
Coping with economic uncertainty while seeking security is a central dilemma of public policy in a globalising economy. The aim of GUSTO is to study that process as it affects European countries and to consider policy options for the future. It requires a new approach, different from the focus of past research on industrial relations and human resource management. GUSTO brings together academic teams from ten European countries and Canada, and also has the active participation of the European Trade Union Institute.
A complex set of deals and conflicts are involved in the process of distributing the gains and the burdens of uncertainty, and various forms of employment contracts and labour and social policies express their outcome. A number of different institutions engage in new practices; and there is a new diversity of employment forms and tenures. Social policy becomes increasingly integrated with employment and industrial relations practices, while both the sustainability of the institutions themselves and their impact on the natural environment require consideration.
Challenges are also presented by the different forms of governance at work in the various policy fields. The crisis of the Keynesian model was often seen as a crisis for associational governance (or neo-corporatism), and an advance for reliance on market governance (usually assisted by strong elements of government intervention). Since then, policy-making by individual large corporations often seems to be replacing associational governance as well as government policy-making in fields of employment categories and rights, pay determination, and the determination of pensions.
However, the public goods issues raised by uncertainty and environmental damage bring again into question the adequacy of governance by the market and individual firms. We should expect to find radical changes in the societal models that we have become accustomed to using in the analysis of social policy. There is a search for new modes of governance, and new combinations of old ones.
The project, which is funded with €1.5 million under the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7, began in March 2009 and will finish in February 2012. The substantive research programme runs from September 2009 to August 2011.