Gaby Umbach, Europeanisation of Employment Policies: Policy Transfer and Diffusion Leading to ?-Convergence? in:

Gaby Umbach

Intent and Reality of the European Employment Strategy, page 165 - 168

Europeanisation of National Employment Policies and Policy-Making?

1. Edition 2009, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4128-4, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1247-0

Series: Studies on the European Union, vol. 1

Bibliographic information
Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 165 2.3.2 Europeanisation of Employment Policies: Policy Transfer and Diffusion Leading to ?-Convergence? The second guiding thesis touches upon the public policy dimension of supranational employment policy co-ordination. It focuses on the overall development of employment policies in the UK and Germany alongside the EES. It assumes that, by means of policy learning, the strategy has an Europeanisation impact on domestic policies of the two countries. The soft elements of the EES are expected to stimulate learning processes as well as the development of common understandings, perceptions, and ideas concerning future employment policy-making. As a result, adaptation of domestic employment policy styles, logics, instruments and problem-solving approaches are presumed to be witnessed. In the extreme case, the destabilisation of existing traditions and understandings, new ways of domestic employment policy deliberation, decentralised experimentation and the collective definition of employment policy approaches would be the result (cf. chapter Thus, national employment policies of both countries would show signs of change and adaptation to the general ‘policy ID’ of the EES, that is, ?-convergence (cf. chapter 3.2.2, and As a result, they would, in the long-run, increase proximity not only to the European model, but also in a cross-national perspective, that is, ?-convergence. In parallel, cognitive/normative structures of national employment policy traditions would be open to change. Yet, the second guiding thesis also assumes a differential Europeanisation impact in the UK and Germany given that employment policy misfit in the case of the former is expected to be lower than in the case of the latter. The overall British employment policy approach is presumed to be closer to the allegedly more liberal European policy paradigm (cf. chapter 3.2). So, the EES is expected to have a lower impact on fundamental domestic policy change leading towards Europeanisation given that no such change is needed to improve domestic employment policies. Contrary to this assumption on the UK, the EES is supposed to have a greater impact on German employment policies. Based on more substantial policy misfit caused by diverse national welfare state traditions (cf. chapter, the country is assumed to be in need to adapt its domestic employment policy approach to the EES more fundamentally than the UK in order to match with the overall ideas of European policy co-ordination. This effect is expected to lead to a considerable degree of Europeanisation of German domestic employment policies. Policy-makers will make use of the opportunity structure provided by the EES to enhance national reforms (cf. chapter and 2.2.2). Additionally, due to a set of unfavourable intervening variables (such as EMU membership, structural unemployment, and a higher level of employment protection), adaptation is assumed to be more difficult in Germany than in the UK. So, the degree of Europeanisation of the public policy domain is expected to be higher in Germany (assumed to take a fence-sitting position) than in the UK (expected to rather be pace-setter of employment policy reforms). Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 166 Yet, even if adaptation of German employment policies to the EES is expected to be rather costly due to the distance to certain EES ideas, the curvilinear relation between the degree of misfit and adaptation pressure (cf. chapter is not expected to lead to inertia. Political actors are assumed to strategically use the EES as a window of opportunity. Based on these starting points, the second guiding thesis presumes that: Even though legally non-binding, the EES–by means of policy learning and exchange of best practices–has an, albeit varying, impact on domestic employment policies in the UK and Germany. As part of supranational socio-economic governance, it primarily fosters ?-convergence by means of policy transfer and diffusion, leading towards the Europeanisation of national employment policies. As proto-type OMC, the EES leaves the choice of policy instruments to EU member states and does not strictly aim at policy convergence in the sense of ?- and convergence by down-loading regulatory policies (as in the case of positive or even negative integration). It, nevertheless, tries to attain - and, even more so, ?convergence by emulation, synthesis, and/or influence of national employment policies towards commonly set goals and the overall policy characteristics of the EES. These aims target at policy change through policy learning by policy transfer and means of policy diffusion. They include change of underlying ideas, paradigms, and priorities. So, both the change of policy content and adaptation patterns, that is, the intentional process of policy change by peer review, multilateral surveillance, scoreboards, or bench-marks, are key aims and means of the EES (cf. chapters, 3.2.2,, and In view of the four types of convergence (cf. chapter, the EES is assumed to be an instrument of ideational and ?-convergence (similarity towards a common model), using the idea of -convergence (alteration of policy-related country-ranking) as a measuring scale for impact. It is, moreover, assumed to aim at convergence (worst performers pull alongside best performers) and to lead towards ?-convergence (increasing policy similarity) in the long-run. Whether the presumed ?-convergence will be the result of ‘thin’ or ‘thick’ learning (cf. chapter is subject of analysis (cf. chapter 4 and 5). The Europeanisation of the public policy domain would point at a strong influence of the EES at national level. The implementation of its underlying policy paradigm within the NAPs, a convergence of policy instruments and of cognitive/normative structures towards its ‘policy ID’ as well as its effective implementation would be witnessed. As a consequence, not only policy instruments would be Europeanised. Also underlying policy ideas, paradigms, and partially national employment policy traditions would be subject to change. Political actors would strategically use the window of opportunity for policy change offered by the EES in order to strengthen domestic employment performance and competitiveness. In this Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 167 process of adaptation, exchange of ideas and best practices among governments is expected to be of main relevance for policy learning and change. Key questions related to this second thesis concern the degree of change of domestic employment policy approaches and instruments through European policy coordination and monitoring cycles, peer review, bench-marking exercises, and the exchange of best practices. They, moreover, touch upon the potential of domestic employment policy traditions to form important veto points for maintaining national problem perceptions, priorities, and differences. They additionally touch upon the question of whether employment policy co-ordination at supranational level leads to the adaptation of national employment policies to the ‘policy ID’ of the EES. If convergence and adaptation will be found, European employment policy coordination has proven to be impacting successfully. National governments will follow European recommendations and guidelines. They will integrate the underlying concept of the EES into national employment policies. As a result, domestic employment policies will show signs of Europeanisation even without a legally-binding character of employment guidelines and recommendations. By integrating a broader range of actors into supranational employment policy co-ordination, the EES will have created a common understanding of European employment policy problems, priorities, and joint solutions. Indicators for the Europeanisation of national employment policies and for compliance with the ‘policy ID’ of the EES are: Table 21: Indicators for Europeanisation of National Employment Policies UK D Consideration of the EES priority areas Focus on EES target groups National policy change instigated by European recommendations Emulation, synthesis or influence inspired by the EES ?-convergence (similarity towards a common model) -convergence (alteration of policy-related country-ranking) -convergence (worst performers pull alongside best performers) ?-convergence (increasing policy similarity) Change of underlying cognitive/normative structures Source: Own compilation (weak/low = -; medium weak/low = +; medium = ++; medium strong/high= +++; strong/high = ++++). Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 168 The second guiding thesis does not assume the overall irrelevance of the EES. Nevertheless, no or rather diffuse Europeanisation would point at change of public policy caused by only unintentionally parallel domestic policy choices in the two countries. These parallel choices would be based on similar domestic constellations and intervening variables. If at all, they would only to an extremely limited degree be stimulated by European guidelines and recommendations. Domestic policy agendas of social democratic governments would predominate. Although the timing of the EES would be matching with domestic reform agendas and approaches, national public policy traditions and priorities would block Europeanisation (cf. chapter 2.2.2). If no Europeanisation will be witnessed, the analysis reveals a high degree of national employment policy stability. This stability would indicate at domestic policy paradigms and traditions that are deeply rooted in diverse national cognitive/normative structures, such as national employment policy concepts, approaches and understandings. Moreover, these paradigms and traditions would be characterised by national perceptions, priorities, and differences, such as divergent economic systems, performances, and welfare state traditions (cf. chapter 2.2.2) or influenced by adverse supra-/international initiatives (cf. chapter National governments would ignore the outcome of European co-ordination and monitoring cycles, best practices, and benchmark exercises. Such a result would point at a fundamental gap between the alleged intent of the EES and its reality. The falsification of the second guiding thesis on the Europeanisation of domestic employment policies and their underlying cognitive/normative structures would support the conclusion that national policy paradigms and traditions are strong intervening variables to hamper adaptation of policy contents. Moreover, it would prove the EES and the OMC to be no powerful instruments to foster policy change and Europeanisation of national employment policies. 2.3.3 Applicability of the Europeanisation Approach: Misfit and Adaptation Pressure – Omnipotent Concepts To Explain Change Instigated by the OMC? Within the analytical armoury of European integration theories, Europeanisation is perceived to be the concept best fitting to explain change not only at EU level, but also at domestic level. In line with this twofold analytical perspective, the study assumes an Europeanisation impact of the EES concerning domestic structures, public policies and underlying domestic cognitive/normative structures (cf. chapter 2.3.1 and 2.3.2). Following the ‘logic of appropriateness’ (cf. chapter, the domain of cognitive/normative structures is assumed to be the most important domain of Europeanisation with a view to the EES. Only on the basis of adaptation in this area domestic structures and employment policies are expected to change. Policy learning by exchange among experts and the development of ‘constitutive rules’ (cf. chapter are, thus, expected to be key aims and tools of the EES given that reliance on legal bindingness and strict compliance is missing.

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Mit ihren spezifischen Merkmalen als neues Politikinstrument – wie etwa ihrem rechtlich nicht bindenden Charakter, dem Ziel des gegenseitigen Politiklernens durch Austausch bester Praktiken oder gemeinsamen Evaluierungsprozessen – stellt die Europäische Beschäftigungsstrategie (EBS) und die mit ihr Anwendung findende Offene Methode der Koordinierung (OMK) beschäftigungspolitische Akteure in der EU vor die neuen Herausforderungen von Politik-Koordinierung, die die Politikgestaltung im europäischen Mehrebenensystem neu prägen.

Das vorliegende Buch beschäftigt sich intensiv mit diesen unterschiedlichen Facetten der EBS und ihrer Wirkung. Es geht dabei über bisherige Einzelstudien zur EBS hinaus und befasst sich nicht nur mit deren Entstehung, Entwicklung und Merkmalen. Es kontrastiert vielmehr den eigenen Anspruch der EBS mit ihrer politischen Realität und untersucht theoretisch hoch reflektiert deren Einfluss auf Politik-Koordinierungsstrukturen, Beschäftigungspolitiken und zugrunde liegenden Ideen sowie deren Zusammenspiel mit anderen wirtschaftspolitischen Bereichen. Neben der EU-Ebene dienen Großbritannien und Deutschland als Fallbeispiele für mitgliedstaatliche Anpassungsprozesse. Das Buch verankert seine Wirkungsanalyse sehr fundiert in der wissenschaftstheoretischen Debatte um Europäisierung und Politikkonvergenz, um deren Anwendbarkeit im Falle der EBS kritisch zu analysieren. Es komplettiert damit Europäisierungsstudien zu regulativer Politik durch die Analyse des Einflusses weicher Politik-Koordinierung im europäischen Mehrebenensystem.