Public Action, Professional Pathways and the Capability Approach

BERTHET, Thierry; VERO, Josiane; GOFFETTE, Céline; ZIMMERMANN, Bénédicte; DAHMEN, Stephan; ROSENSTEIN, Emilie (2014). 'Public Action, Professional Pathways and the Capability Approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

The contributions of this thematic panel, bringing together economists and sociologists make use of the capability approach to shed news lights on the labour market consequences of the crisis and the role that public action may play in measuring and fostering actions aiming at securing professional pathways at the European policy making level. Insisting on flexicurity policies drawbacks, it includes themes that range from active labour market policies and labour market performance measurement to professional development.


Flexicurity is based on four fundamental pillars: (1) flexible and reliable contractual arrangements; (2) comprehensive lifelong learning strategies to ensure the continual adaptability and employability of workers; (3) effective active labour market policies that help people cope with rapid change; (4) Modern social security systems that provide adequate income support. How can such labour market policies cope with the consequences of the great recession? How to balance flexibility and security in this time of crisis characterized by increased instability and uncertainty, greater international competition between firms, enhanced responsibilities to individuals, less-stable employment careers? To what extent do the notion of employability, which inspires today's active labour market policies, fits in Sen's capability framework? How to refocus established welfare programs and expenditures to cover changing distributions of social risk between generations? How to put human development at work ahead? How to reconfigure labour market indicators in a capability perspective?


Beyond these common substantive challenges of reconfiguring work and welfare, the contributions of this thematic panel identify the normative thread of the European orientations, which gives flexibility precedence over real freedom for workers, employability precedence over capability, human capital over professional development and cast doubts of institutionalized benchmarking using the employment rate as headline indicator and the use of questionable synthetic indicators. They further suggest that flexicurity policies require profound revision and should not be continued in their current form. A better alternative would be to pay attention to the extension and expression of worker's capabilities.


The results presented in this thematic panel session are drawn from various research projects: Eurocap - , Capright – Resources, rights and capabilities (EU FP6 2007-10); Workable – Making Capabilities Work (EU FP7 2009-12); EduWel – Education as Welfare (EU FP7 ITN Marie Curie 2010-13), SocIEtY – Social Innovation – Empowering the Young for the Common Good (EU FP7 2013-15) and LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (National Center of Competencies in Research, founded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, 2011-14).

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