Dissertation Abstracts

The Europeanisation of Employment Policies: Impacts and Implications in the Portuguese Case

Author: Valadas, Carla S., csvaladas@gmail.com
Department: Faculty of Economics
University: Coimbra, Portugal
Supervisor: Professor Pedro Hespanha
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: European Employment , Europeanisation , Open Method of Coord , Unemployment
Areas of Research: Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Political Sociology , Work


In our research, we analyse the development of public employment policies that have emerged and developed in the EU as a result of a soft regulation system and of how they interrelate with the employment policies that are followed in one of the EU member-states, in this case, Portugal.
We start with the idea that national social protection systems are, at the present time, strongly influenced by changes that occur at the international level and originate from agreements and/or guidelines designed by international organizations, such as the EU. In the late nineties, European countries agreed on a coordinated strategy to promote employment called the European Employment Strategy (EES), that was incorporated in the year 2000 on the Lisbon agenda. From a sociological institutionalist perspective, we show that the EES has inter-related with domestic reforms in employment policy in terms of the content and extent of reforms due to a mix of institutional and historical characteristics along with changes in actors’ strategies and practices. In the case of Portugal, we can say that the dynamics emanating from the EES’ conceptual framework and policy instruments influenced institutional settings in a broadest sense, i.e. rules, procedures, norms and practices. A major change is also taking place regarding the role put forward by the state since it has increasingly assumed the form of an active welfare state based on individual responsibility for securing personal employability.
Our research is based on both quantitative and qualitative data. Specifically, the data draws on expert interviews with civil servants in the national labour ministries, the European Commission as well as representatives of the social partners and regional authorities, all directly involved in the EES or domestic labour market reforms, as well as document analysis and statistical analysis. The focus of our research is the process of implementation of the EES and its specific configuration in the case of Portugal, in what concerns the actors and networks involved; the re-organization of (un)employment structures; the principles, concepts and practices related to the policies themselves; the articulation-coordination with other national policies (e.g. fiscal and economic policies and training and qualification policies).
One of the dissertation's conclusions highlights the idea that the role of national historical configurations and institutional and political structures (e.g. of social protection systems) play an important role, determining the specificities of the response to (new) challenges and pressures affecting welfare states and labour markets, in particular, the ones related to the increase in unemployment and changing forms of employment.