Working conditions in the European Union: Employment security and employability

In the current European debate on labour market and employment policies, the concept of flexicurity – generally perceived as a balance between the flexibility and security needs of employers and employees – has moved centrestage.

The novelty of the flexicurity approach is the juxtaposition of two such apparently contrary targets. The flexicurity model aims to overcome the simple trade-off between flexibility and security through the adoption of measures that take into account these two objectives at the same time.

The flexibility strategy needs to take into account the different legal and institutional frameworks, as well as the political and industrial relations systems, which characterise each country. Flexicurity may be considered as an incremental policy learning strategy, where national and local stakeholders experiment step by step with different policy measures in terms of their impacts. For this purpose, it is important to look at employers’ flexibility needs, on the one hand, and the rights of workers to decent work and a guarantee of employability, on the other. Several components of flexicurity have already been implemented in many EU countries.

Job insecurity

Individual objective job insecurity decreases as the level of education and age increase, with no difference between men and women in this respect.

However, it is important to note that the EWCS covers working individuals only: the women who participated in the survey are selected because they are economically active and are more capable of taking on jobs with respect to abilities valued by the labour market than the average woman in the population. Subjective job insecurity was measured by asking workers directly about their perceptions of the stability of

their current employment relationship. While there were no differences by gender in the level of the subjective job insecurity indicator, it was shown to decrease with increasing education, with age and with greater income.

Employability

On-the-job employability increases with workers’ level of education and job tenure up to about 20 years, then it declines. Hence, better educated individuals accumulate a higher level of employability in the workplace. However, the level of employability that an individual is able to accumulate in the workplace decreases when the level of experience rises and when tenure crosses the 20-year threshold. In other words, what a worker can learn on the job reaches a maximum after spending a significantly long period of time working within the same company. In general, average employability is lower for female workers. While the ‘formal training’ element of employability is higher for women, the other two factors – learning and task rotation – are higher for men. Both factors decrease with age, while learning is highest among workers aged 30–49 years.

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