Tilburg University department Labour Law and Sociol Policy

Research Program 2014-2018 Sociaal Recht en Sociale Politiek

Labour Market Dynamics, Employment Regulation and Flexibility-Security Outcomes

Joint Research Program: ReflecT / Labour Law and Social Policy at Tilburg University, 2014-2018

This 5-year Research Program 2014-2018, is developed in joint collaboration between ReflecT and the Department of Labour Law and Social Policy. It will be conducted jointly with other research departments within Tilburg University, notably the departments of HR-studies, Economics and Sociology.

The increasing dynamics on the labour market resulting from globalisation, technological change (automatisation, robotisation) and demographic developments (ageing, migration) impacts the flexibility-security balance and social participation and wellbeing outcomes through its impact on the behaviour of individual and social actors and the regulations and governance of the employment relationship. The study of the relation between labour market dynamics, the regulation of the employment relationship and the flexibility-security, participation and wellbeing outcomes create new avenues for multidisciplinary research to which lawyers, economists, sociologists, psychologists and HR-scholars may contribute.

Within each of the distinct traditions of research only single parts of this relationship are studied. Lawyers focus on the consequences of the increasing dynamics for regulation and governance, departing from the foundations and principles of law. Economists study the relationship between these dynamics and efficiency-equity outcomes from the foundations of economic behaviour. Finally, psychologists, sociologists and HR-scholars study the impact of these dynamics on individual and social (group) behaviour and their outcomes, departing from the perceptions, motivations, preferences, social norms and values of individual and social actors. The multidisciplinary research program seeks to combine the various perspectives to shed new light on the relationships studied.

A common challenge to modern labour markets, according to all three disciplinary perspectives, is the extent to which and the way in which the increasing dynamics on the labour market and behavioural responses to these changes influence the classical efficiency-equity balance or the balance between economic and social outcomes translated into the flexibility-security balance, participation and wellbeing. Economic outcomes with respect to the labour market pertain to the demand and supply of labour, to human capital formation and to wages. Economic research in this domain therefore focuses on the way economic behaviour impacts on job matching, productivity and on wage and employment careers. Social outcomes pertain to the level of (social) protection or income and employment security but also to inequality, well-being, education, participation and social cohesion. These outcomes are however strongly affected and mediated by the design of regulatory regimes and practices and modes of governance at all levels: from the individual and company (HR policies) level, through the sectoral, regional and national to the supra-national level.

At all these levels the challenge is to design a regulatory and institutional set-up that is able to facilitate and support a proper efficiency-equity balance and high levels of participation and wellbeing. To give one example: The European Union has articulated the flexibility-security balance in the Treaty as a key mission: “to develop and maintain a strong competitive and dynamic social market economy with full employment and high levels of protection”. This requires proper strategies and new forms of governance. It also raises questions about the feasibility of real win-win strategies. Is it possible to fully reconcile economic and social outcomes in the labour market domain, or does one of the objectives inevitably suffer?

This short sketch leads to the following conceptual framework for the entire research program: