Alternative Strategies for Fighting Unemployment: Lessons from the European experience

Gilles Saint-Paul

Published: March 2008

During more than three decades of protracted high unemployment, European countries have developed a variety of approaches in order to tackle the problem. These strategies differ in their philosophy, scopes and successes. A number of them can be understood in terms of shying away from full-fledged liberalization in order to preserve the "European Social Model". In this paper the author discusses their relative merits. He focuses on strategies that may reasonably be expected to reduce unemployment, and ignores sheer blunders based on a false view of how the economics works (such as working time reduction), as well as measures that may improve the welfare of the unemployed but are nevertheless harmful to the labour market (such as generous unemployment benefits). The general message is that some of the strategies that “preserve the European Social Model” have merits, but are unlikely to lead to an efficient labour market where finding a job or hiring a worker are no longer considered as a painful challenge.

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