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Conference: The impact of globalisation on structural change and employment

European Parliament (Brussels), 04.03.2008

Monday 10 March 2008

Report by Anne Taklaja (Estonia) On Tuesday, 4th March 2008, the European Parliament and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions organised a high level conference to discuss the problems related with recent trends in the current phase of globalisation. The main question was how social partners and politicians can best way offset some of the negative consequences of globalisation.

Mr Jorma KARPPINEN, Director of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, said in his opening speech that globalisation is a new chance and challenge for Europe. Economic developments have been fast and positive: during last two years the export growth was 42% and six millions new jobs have been created. The unemployment rate is going down. Structural changes and this new international division of labour have more positive than negative aspects. Re-orientation to new circumstances is important – adaptation of labour (force) markets, innovation, flexicurity and well-formed long-term strategies are needed.

Romana TOMC, Secretary of State, Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs of Slovenia, underlined the importance of social dialogue, proactive approach and need for social security during all life-cycle, also fair pay and modernisation of labour markets. She noted that too many people who are working are still living under the poverty-line and this is not normal.

Four key aspects of globalization were discussed in the roundtable discussions between MEPs, Eurofound experts and social partners.

The first Round Table focused on the current developments and trends of globalization from economic and employment aspects: Europe’s role and place in a globalised economy, new international division of labour, new winners and new losers in short-term and long-term perspectives, outsourcing and back sourcing, multinational firms and international production network, cost competition, „bad jobs”, substantial increase of service jobs in the future.

The second Round Table focused on strategies of companies to face globalization and managing change on country and company levels: what are the factors driving business relocation, how important is the new phenomena of back sourcing, how company culture influence company’s decisions, and what role do social partners have at company level and does worker participation at board level can make difference?

The third Round Table analyzed the first lessons learnt from the European Globalization Adjustment Fund, explored how flexicurity and active labour market policies are concretely implemented in Member States, and examined how regions respond to globalization – were expectations of coherent industrial policies at EU and national levels too great.

Ole CHRISTENSEN, Member of the EP (PSE, DK) presented the Danish social model as a positive example and accentuated that implementation of flexicurity strategies have to be applied on respectively a local, regional and national and European level.

The final, fourth Round Table looked at the future. It aimed to identify the challenges ahead and discussed strategies to cope with these challenges: how to adapt social protection systems, will flexicurity solve the need of increasing labour market adaptability, which strategies should be developed to address major changes in the international financial markets, does Europe need a global trade strategy?

One of the conclusions was that key priorities are education (focusing on continuing vocational training), developing skills, and labour market modernization. Globalization is not the only factor influencing structural changes and employment – technological development and reforms in transport sector have the same impact. Retraining workers is very important.

Development of technologies and industries and management models have been very fast but the development of trade unions and their methods have been modest – more and effective training is needed. Trade unions have enough different tools but the problem is how to use this tools. Workers inclusion on company level is important. Under discussion was the problem connected with negotiators mandates and representability. There were some criticisms to address European Work Councils and their need for reinforce coordination capacity.

Please find here the programme with all the presentations of the speakers.

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