Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

The changing boundaries between society and economy in Europe

More than 30 people attended the Conference organized in Venice from May 8th to the 9th, 2009 in honour of professor Colin Crouch 65th anniversary. Attendees ranged from colleagues, to former researchers and students touched by the impact of Colin teaching and bénévolance. The Conference has been held at the University of Warwick new premises at Venice, Cannaregio, 3764 (Palazzo Pesaro-Papafava).

The changing boundaries between society and economy in Europe have been explored in three fields: gender division of work, capitalist diversity and institutional change, and changes in the governance of European societies.


Maria José González (Universidad Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), Teresa Jurado (UNED, Madrid) and Manuela Naldini (Turin University) have showed that women have changed a lot in the public sphere, while men have not. They founded that most powerful variable to explain country differences in the role of women was the existence or absence of a professional class.


Maarten Keune (European Trade Union Institute) analyses EU Integration and emphasizes the diverse impact of the EU: “the single market has increased the exit options of capital. Keune speaks of the “need of governments to court capital and the need of governments and labour to strengthen competitive corporatism (in corporativist countries)”. He finds the impact of the EU has been higher in labour market (showing wages has been sustainable restrained from 1995), than in the welfare state (where cases are very diverse and range from high restrain in some countries to higher expenditure in others). He sees the national level as remaining key to constraining the markets.

Ulrich Glassmann (University of Cologne) speaks about Continuity and Change in Capitalism. Looking at Italian and German regions over the last decade he finds an increase in demand for dual labour markets in the traditional industries (temporary work contracts have tripled in last decade). Whereas in new growth industries, pressure on firms have forced regions to specialize. Germany has fragmented in two ways: spatially and institutionally with regard to labour and Glassman finds that spatial approaches are receiving a lot attention. He illustrates what this means with the example of regional government policy in the Land of Rhine-Westphalia where the economics Ministry has been absolutely reorganized, areas of policy have been clustered along sectors, and funds are being allocated to the growth sectors. This is a very different approach to what they did before, when sectors with problems were privileged.

THE GOVERNANCE OF EUROPEAN SOCIETIES (Chair: Simona Talani, Bath University).

Anton Hemerick (WRR, The Netherlands), speaks about the Reform of the Welfare States, and says that the reason why the Chinese saved so much in the last two decades was that they were saving to cover health cost in case of illness (given that they did not have any health system). “Even though there is an immense window of opportunity for welfare recalibration in Europe, Hemerick sees institutional shortcomings.

Guglielmo Meardi (University of Warwick) analyses Industrial relations after European state traditions. Meardi points out that only 6 per cent of jobs have been lost because of outsourcing in the EU. He finds labour standards do not explain Foreign Direct Investment from Multinationals (quoting Germany and Italy as two examples). He shares evidence showing that productivity of labour increases and even overpasses that of other more productive countries when technology and operations are upgraded in less developed countries (examples of Germany and Poland). He remarks that studies about workers across countries in Europe might not apply same assumptions and share the same conclusions as studies over migrants across the EU because the regulations are two tier and different for the two groups across nation states.

Colin Crouch (Warwick University) sees a change in the structure of the labor force and also in gender competition. This will be leading to different formations that will not be easily explained by old categories. Crouch remarks that social structures of sectors are not the same in different sectors. “We may need to understand industries and sectors before we understand countries”. Thus, politics continues to be very important.

Philippe Schmitter (European University Institute) remarks that “we are in the middle of a dramatic change… and the potentiality for corruption is huge with taxation without representation”. He says that politicians are out of touch with citizens.

Franca Alacevich (University of Florence) se plantea ¿cómo entender

mejor la crisis hoy? Afirma que lo que ocurría a nivel micro en los 1990 nos ayuda a entenderlo mejor: “lo que estaba ocurriendo a nivel macro a nivel sindical (poco) no era lo mismo que ocurría al nivel micro (mucho) en términos de relaciones laborales”. Sin embargo, a diferencia de entonces, las organizaciones sindicales no consiguen representar el mapa de trabajadores (desempleados, emigrantes, trabajadores del sector servicios, muy dispersos geográficamente). Además, dentro de las empresas, ¿Dónde reside la legitimidad de la negociación? Con la externalizacion, la gobernanza se complica. Encuentra que en términos generales estamos viviendo una diáspora sindical con los sindicatos.

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The present Economic Crisis: the World, Europe, Spain, a conference by Jonathan Story (INSEAD)

Madrid, January 21th at Fundación Rafael del Pino, and Story starts by saying that the current crisis is opened to many interpretations on causes and remedies. Since venues of interpretation are so far apart,  getting close to a solution is difficult.

In the most pessimistic scenario of several analyzed by Jonathan Story, he envisions a problem of trust on institutions: Agents may become conservative and decide to invest on real state, withdrawing liquidity from the financial system. Why so? The poacher has also been the gate keeper (i.e. people ask themselves how has Madoff been able to get money as well
as being at the regulator, the FDIC?)

Story believes there is room for optimism. Historically he recalls cases in the 1970s, when governments at either side of the spectrum in Spain, UK and USA opted for acting. They did so with a recycling policy (such as subsidizing housing), transferring funds to less favoured. He also states that people are keeping their money in deposits.

The US is still the key state in the global system, although with much less room of manoeuvre. This has implications for the new scenario under a severe economic crisis. However, locally, the US has a very fragmented financial and regulatory system, which Story sees as a problem.

In Europe he sees the problem of leadership, and somehow lack of ambition. Story belives that the United States may afford to have an insulae approach to global problems. It is a country big enough, and key in the global system. Europe, however is not developing an European pride (education is a main cause). European countries have a real problem acting as insulae.

Story pinpoints some long term shifts:
1. In Italy, current labor cost are 30 per cent above those in Germany. Spain is in the middle. Germany has excelled (at managing in detail all the outsourcing (to eastern Europe), three times per capita than EU number two, becoming a manufacturing champion). In no way Latin countries are catching up with this. Manufacturing is (terrible) in Spain.

What to do for Spain? Very little. Easing the labour law will panic workers. If anything, massive investment program at the EU level, but through direct involvement of the heads of government, not through European institutions. Serious leadership and not provincial mass is needed. For Spain there is a tough test lying ahead for the monetary union. He see the
way out in Spain is promoting big programs  at the EU level.

2. Europe needs leadership: it is heavily underperforming playing prestige. Europe is more than it believes of itself (just count on the Olympic medals for Europe, close to two thousand, but not sold as European).

3. Russia has become European. Russia prefers Germany to China. Russia is scared of China for two main reasons: Siberia is the key asset of Russia -close to China- and the demographic implosion of the frontiers with China. China is the American friend, and beside, China´s economic implosion in the last 20 years.

4. The United States will not be able to pull apart from global problems, as it did from the 70s, but Story stresses that Obama´s plan is to get back to the USA as an exporting nation, and less focus on the global financial system as a source of growth. The message is: nations should rely more on themselves since the American yard will not be the consumer place the world has been used to.

He concludes that fear is what is moving the tectonic plaques right now. And fear is based upon greed, (not a good world to live in, he concludes).

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