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1 September 2014

Europe: from social model to social dumping?

social dumping

Social dumping has become one of the most pressing political and social concerns in the EU as it exerts downward pressure on wages and working conditions. A new ETUI working paper provides a definition of social dumping, explores the mechanisms underlying these practices and demonstrates how the EU’s internal market policies and the enlargement process have provided market actors with new incentives and opportunities to circumvent social regulations.

The paper written by researcher Magdalena Bernaciak presents some of the conclusions of a broader ETUI research project ‘Social dumping in the enlarged EU: Concepts, challenges and policy options’.

Starting from a critique of popular and academic uses the term, Bernaciak defines social dumping as ‘the practice undertaken by self-interested market participants, of undermining or evading existing social regulations with the aim of getting a competitive advantage’.

Bernaciak then analyses social dumping in the context of the creation and completion of the EU’s internal market process and the EU’s enlargement to Southern (in the 1980s) and Central-Eastern countries (in the 2000s). Both processes have given market participants new strategic opportunities ‘to contest or ‘bend’ the existing social constraints’.

The paper also questions several common presumptions about social dumping found in the European public discourse. It shows that social dumping is ‘not an exclusive domain of actors coming from new EU member states’ Furthermore, it should not be viewed solely as a company strategy as indirectly also the role of workers in furthering the social dumping agenda need to be taken into account.

Finally, the working paper identifies the need for a ‘resolute’ policy response. ‘There is a need to curb deregulation and to provide adequate monitoring and enforcement of the existing norms’.

Social dumping will be one of the hot topics to be debated during the joint ETUC-ETUI Crossroads conference from 24-26 September. A special panel on social dumping will discuss the results of this ETUI research project and present other recent academic work on the issue.

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