Coping with economic uncertainty while seeking security is a central dilemma of public policy in a globalising economy. The aim of GUSTO is to study that process as it affects European countries and to consider policy options for the future. It requires a new approach, different from the focus of past research on industrial relations and human resource management. GUSTO brings together academic teams from ten European countries and Canada, and also has the active participation of the European Trade Union Institute.
A complex set of deals and conflicts are involved in the process of distributing the gains and the burdens of uncertainty, and various forms of employment contracts and labour and social policies express their outcome. A number of different institutions engage in new practices; and there is a new diversity of employment forms and tenures. Social policy becomes increasingly integrated with employment and industrial relations practices, while both the sustainability of the institutions themselves and their impact on the natural environment require consideration.
Challenges are also presented by the different forms of governance at work in the various policy fields. The crisis of the Keynesian model was often seen as a crisis for associational governance (or neo-corporatism), and an advance for reliance on market governance (usually assisted by strong elements of government intervention). Since then, policy-making by individual large corporations often seems to be replacing associational governance as well as government policy-making in fields of employment categories and rights, pay determination, and the determination of pensions.
However, the public goods issues raised by uncertainty and environmental damage bring again into question the adequacy of governance by the market and individual firms. We should expect to find radical changes in the societal models that we have become accustomed to using in the analysis of social policy. There is a search for new modes of governance, and new combinations of old ones.
The project, which is funded with €1.5 million under the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7, began in March 2009 and will finish in February 2012. The substantive research programme runs from September 2009 to August 2011.
GUSTO’s work is organized in seven different work packages (WPs), each of which has a separate area on the website:
WP1: Project Management: Look here for information on formal and administrative aspects of the project
WP2: Theoretical Development: This was work done to launch the substantive research – but the papers in it continue to be developed, so the site is still active
WP3: Individual Pathways to Flexibility and Sustainability in Europe: Research here uses individual data from national labour force surveys and matches them to work being done on overall systems. It develops previous EU-sponsored research on transitional labour markets
WP4a: Comparative Policy Studies: Migration: Look here for studies of developments and policies in a key and difficult field for European and other labour markets
WP4b: Comparative Policy Studies: Pensions: A second key and difficult field selected for detailed study of policies and practices
WP5: Sustainability of the European Social Model: While much of the project is concerned with national and sub-national developments, this WP concentrates on changes in EU policies, in particular concerning the concept of flexicurity
WP6: Governance of Uncertainty and Sustainability at Sectoral and Territorial Levels: Look here for work on collective bargaining and other issues where social partners are involved in redefining labour market practices at sectoral and local levels
WP7: Integrative Studies: Activities will not appear in this space until the substantive research of the other WPs is complete – after September 2011