As part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, IZA held this high-level Employment Seminar in Brussels. This initiative was taken to strengthen the links between IZA with its European partners and international institutions as well as stimulate the dialogue between research and policy making in Europe. The topic of the seminar, organized by IZA Director Klaus F. Zimmermann and IZA Deputy Director of Labor Policy Werner Eichhorst and co-funded by the German Thyssen Foundation, was the relation between labor market performance and distributional outcomes against the background of the EU’s Lisbon Strategy. It brought together about 40 academic and policy-oriented participants from EU Member States, European institutions and other international organizations.
A major conclusion of the seminar was the observation that in a dynamic and volatile economic environment rising inequality is not inevitable, but countries continue to exhibit considerably different levels of inequality. In particular some Nordic countries such as Denmark, Sweden, but also the Netherlands were found to combine high levels of economic efficiency, i.e. high employment, and equity in terms of low income inequality and poverty. Comparative analysis shows that labor market and welfare state institutions shape the relation between job creation and social cohesion, but that interactions between policies and the economic environment change over time. Hence, there is a role for well-designed public policies that generate both more and better jobs. Activation policies should not only lead to quick labor market entry, but help stabilize labor market attachment and upward mobility. More equal access to education and a more egalitarian approach to lifelong learning can be seen as a core element of a policy package to achieve employability for all. Easing transitions between different jobs by way of removing barriers in accordance with flexicurity policies can contribute to overcoming the frequently assumed tradeoff between more and better jobs. A core issue, the seminar emphasized, in this respect is the efficient delivery of public services in activation, education and continuous training. The EU can facilitate national reforms by setting targets and stimulating exchange between the Member States.
The first IZA Employment Seminar will be followed up by regular European workshops on topics that are relevant in the European context and by the creation of an international network of labor policy experts.