Lost in Translation: The Role of Professionals in the Governance of Demographic Change in the European Union

Frederik Lisberg & Johann Ole Willers

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

This thesis studies the governance of demographic change in the EU. Specifically, it investigates the role of external actors in shaping policy-responses at the European level.
To address the combined complexity of the political process, the case, and the expert community, this thesis applies a combination of network analysis and semi-structured interviews.
"The demographic community of experts form a core that successfully introduced ideas to the socially oriented European Commission (EC) services. Additionally, the findings of the thesis show that the political responses to the recent financial crisis shifted internal dynamics within the EC, favoring the economics and finance service. The resulting agenda setting power constrained the possibility to introduce interventionist ideas into the policy-process as the narrowed discursive space now necessitates a framing of solutions in accordance to a supply-side oriented paradigm. By implication, expert advice needed to be re-framed and adapted to the dominant discourse, resulting in the proposed life-course approach to be “lost in translation”.
Accordingly, the governance of demographic change in Europe is centered on the issue of pensions. Indeed, the pension systems in most Member States have become more sustainable economically. However, the adequacy dimension has been neglected, and broader approaches to the governance challenge have become marginalized.
This is an important finding as the EU’s economic and geopolitical prospects are inter- connected to the Union’s ability to adapt to a changing demographic structure, preventing labor-shortages and guaranteeing social cohesion.
Further, the results point towards structural problems in the EU political setting to address looming crises on a more general level. It is, however, in the context of these slow-burning crises that external experts can provide for novel ideas. The thus shown inability of the Union services to use this input efficiently raises questions about the adequacy of the institutional processes, thus questioning the legitimacy of the Union to effectively address European problems.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages360
SupervisorsLeonard Seabrooke & Duncan Wigan