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Project MESEC

The marketization of employment services in European comparison

Contracted-out employment services have become an international industry of considerable size and influence. Its expansion reflects public-sector restructuring, changes in the mix of policy instruments, budget cuts, the use of procurement and vouchers rather than grants, and the creation of a single European market for services. This project compares market structures and commissioning practices in Denmark, Germany, and the UK.

1.    The context

In employment services, market conditions and commissioning practices affect the quality of work of front-line employees and thus the quality and effectiveness of services provided. While we identify the increasing commodification of labor market services as a general trend in European active labor market policies, these environmental pressures vary considerably. Our international comparison provides an opportunity to scrutinize the intensification of price competition, changes in the length of contracting cycles, and the casualization of employment.

2.    Research questions

This project has two main research questions. First, how are nationally varying market structures and commissioning practices affecting job quality in employment services? Second, how could we study the effects of this process on the quality and effectiveness of services?

Embedded in this study is a concern with how marketization shapes the constraints under which front-line workers carry out their jobs and design their work, their representation by unions and works councils, and the self-organization of providers and professions.

3.    Research methods and work plan

This project runs from 1. April 2013 to 31. December 2014. The core of this project will be comparative case studies of providers (in Germany known as Träger), which will be supplemented by a review of secondary literature, statistical comparisons, comparative institutional analysis, and expert interviews with key actors shaping the employment services market and with providers’ associations and trade unions. In addition, tendering documents will be analyzed and compared.

A workshop will take place in each country near the end of the project to discuss and debate research findings.  A full range of stakeholders will be invited, including worker representatives, providers, policymakers, and claimant organizers.

 4.    The team

The research team is based at three research centres: the Centre for Labour Market Research (CARMA) at Aalborg University in Demark; the Work and Employment Research Unit (WERU) at the University of Greenwich in the UK; and the Institute for Work, Skills, and Training (IAQ) at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.  Team members include:

Prof. Flemming Larsen, Aalborg

Ms. Karen Breidahl, Aalborg

Prof. Matthias Knuth, Duisburg-Essen

Mr. Johannes Kirsch, Duisburg-Essen

Prof. Ian Greer, Greenwich

Ms. Lisa Schulte, Greenwich

Dr. Graham Symon, Greenwich

Ms. Alejandra Rodriguez, Greenwich

With funding from

HBS-Logo RGB mitClaim

Project number 2013-601-3

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