Structural reform and labour markets in Europe: The case of Ireland

Peter Lang
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Labour, Globalisation & the New Economy, 2005, 1st, pp. 235 - 267
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The June 1998 European Council summit under the UK presidency in Cardiff initiated an ambitious process of reform of national product and capital markets, which may also have implications for the structure and performance of labour markets. The rationale for the 'Cardiff process' of structural reform lay, first, in the need to respond in a coherent way to the pressures of globalisation and the 'single market' in Europe and, second, in the claimed superiority of US economic performance during the 1990s, which was explained by flexible and liberalised markets, especially in relation to pay, working conditions and labour mobility. At the time, this explanation not only passed unchallenged in public policy debate, but was explicitly incorporated into a Blair-Schroder joint document on the 'third way'. Moreover, it was observed that Europe, by contrast, had been experiencing lower growth and higher unemployment, which was attributed to state ownership of public utilities, lack of competition in product and capital markets, generous social benefits and inflexible labour markets.
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