Buzzword watch: “flexicurity”

FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP A popular saying within the EU depicts politicians as having “the punctuality of the Italians, the flexibility of the Germans, and the humility of the French”—to which they now might want to add the marketing talents of, say, the Bulgarians. Exhibit A: The European Commission is pushing something called “flexicurity” (pdf) as a ...

600886_070628_flexicurity_05.jpg
600886_070628_flexicurity_05.jpg

FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP

A popular saying within the EU depicts politicians as having "the punctuality of the Italians, the flexibility of the Germans, and the humility of the French"—to which they now might want to add the marketing talents of, say, the Bulgarians.

Exhibit A: The European Commission is pushing something called "flexicurity" (pdf) as a way to sell its labor market reform plan to the EU Council and Parliament. As the Commission explains:

FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP

A popular saying within the EU depicts politicians as having “the punctuality of the Italians, the flexibility of the Germans, and the humility of the French”—to which they now might want to add the marketing talents of, say, the Bulgarians.

Exhibit A: The European Commission is pushing something called “flexicurity” (pdf) as a way to sell its labor market reform plan to the EU Council and Parliament. As the Commission explains:

Flexicurity can be defined as an integrated strategy to enhance, at the same time, flexibility and security in the labor market.

The Commission’s awkward marketing strategy reflects past failed attempts to shake-up Europe’s labor markets. As the turmoil that torpedoed the career of Dominique De Villepin demonstrates, Europeans simply don’t like reforms that cut into their cherished safety net in the name of greater labor market flexibility, no matter how clever the portmanteau used to describe them.

And yet, with unemployment rates hovering around 8 to 9 percent, Europe badly needs a shakeup, and the Commission’s reform would do just that. And from the standpoint of textbook economics—where the U.S. labor market is the ideal type of flexibility and Europe a paradise of security—”flexicurity” isn’t a bad name at all. It envisions more flexibility than in the current European labor markets, and more security than in the current U.S. system. But in the eyes of a European citizen, it just means increasing flexibility and cutting on security. And so, “flexicurity” is likely to be ridiculed as a blatant attempt to sweeten a bitter pill for Europeans to swallow.

Erica Alini is a Rome-based researcher for the Associated Press.

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