Good Governance via the OMC: The Cases of Employment and Social Inclusion

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This article focuses on how the EU, via the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), governs the employment and social inclusion policies of the EU Member States. It derives three operational governance principles – Participation, Coherence and Effectiveness - from the EU White Paper on Governance and the definition of the OMC itself. Participation is conceptualised as two broad categories of actors involved in the OMCs: first, a core policy community that is a closed group of insiders which prepares work in a delegated policy area, and second, a broader policy network, that is more open and that has a stake in the policy area concerned, without having any central decision-making power. Empirically, the analysis reveals that an institutionally similar policy community has been developed in employment and social inclusion within the main national-level ministries, respectively the Labour and Social Ministries. These are responsible for upstream reporting to the European level, horizontal integration across relevant ministries, and downstream integration of other levels of government, which is increasingly important in the context of devolution of employment and inclusion policies. However, the broader policy network of organised interest organisations is dissimilar in the two areas: the social partners are more superficially involved in the EES than the civil society actors in the OMCincl., that use it as a means to strengthen their own position vis-a-vis governmental actors. Policy coherence is conceptualised as political and ideological consistency of key policy objectives throughout time. In terms of policy coherence, the EES has identified a core supply-side policy means, “employability”, that has been consistent throughout time, to achieve a clear policy outcome: the full employment model. The overall policy coherence of the OMCincl. temporally has been consistent in seeking to include people in society through work, to develop a rights-based approach and to target actions towards vulnerable groups. Together, the OMC in Employment and in Social Inclusion support the economic growth and full employment model, by increasing the employment rate of the Union. Both, particularly from the perspective of the socially-oriented protagonists, also embrace social objectives of equity and decent standards of living. In a sense, the policy objectives of the Employment and Social Inclusion processes embody the hybridisation that increasingly characterises the outcome of the social policy reform processes in the different EU Member States. At the same time, the objectives of both processes can be interpreted in different ways across the political spectrum, rendering their consistency relatively fragile. Effectiveness, defined as the integration of core policies (under each OMC) into the context of Member States, is assessed via key quantitative indicators that have been created by Eurostat to reflect the objectives of each of the OMCs. In the EES, the indicators around “employability” or “activation” show that expenditure on Active Labour Market Policies (ALMP) has been decreasing throughout time. However, if we turn our attention to the core outcome indicator – employment rates - which has been increasing over time, then the EES objectives are in conjunction with an increase in employment rates observed in the EU-15 over last decade. This suggests, first, that employability measures are not the main cause of employment growth and second, that while activation has become a mainstream concept in labour market reform, the EES does not have the capacity to promote the development of a particular line of employability schemes. It suggests, second, that the EES does have a capacity to promote a societal model of full employment, re-enforced by the Lisbon Strategy in 2000 and its revision in 2005. The EES as an agenda setting instrument influences or supports the core economic and employment reform agendas of the EU-15. The analysis of effectiveness of the OMCincl. takes account of the fact that the model it upholds is not as strong as that of the EES, as there are no quantitative benchmarks. Nevertheless, from the perspective of an anti-poverty policy, it does provide comparative information on poverty in the EU-15; this data is novel for more countries than the statistics of ALMP. In the countries of the EU-15, there has been a trend towards convergence of poverty rates in 2004, compared to 1997. The OMCincl., through statistics depicts poverty comparatively and for the EU as a whole, but more importantly, it proposes solutions for problems of exclusion that are increasingly similar. The OMCincl. supports the development of a policy agenda in fighting exclusion, an area that is generally underdeveloped and at the sidelines of the core social protection reform agendas. The OMCincl. nevertheless continues, in terms of information provision, and as a policy agenda, to develop incrementally and to different degrees, in the domestic context of various Member States of the EU-15.
TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Legal Studies
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)118-162
Antal sider45
StatusUdgivet - 2007
Udgivet eksterntJa