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"Flexicurity more luck than planning"

| Text: Lis Lyngbjerg Steffensen

The Danish flexicurity model is more luck than strategic planning, says Kongshøj Madsen, professor of labour market research. He is optimistic, and thinks the Danish tradition of combining flexibility and work security is the model which secures the best development.

”Flexicurity is a package which straight away appears to kill two birds with one stone. That’s why it is so politically beguiling both in Denmark and abroad. Politicians like solutions where they can have their cake and eat it too. But the model is also basically very sensible, even if it has been developed more through luck than as the result of a long term strategy”, says Per Kongshøj Madsen. 

He can think of a few drawbacks, but they aren’t many. There is for instance always the risk that employers won’t train their workers, when they know that staff can be fired easily, or that they might look for work elsewhere themselves. But that’s not a problem for the time being, as long as Danish employees still enjoy a very high level of education and in-house training. 

Furthermore, the Danish social security system secures education for a large portion of both the unemployed and people in work, through the social benefit scheme and the adult education system. Hence the Danish social safety net evens out the potential faults of the flexicurity model. He points out that flexicurity doesn’t come for free. Denmark’s labour market policy is pricey, at four per cent of the country’s BNP. That makes it the world’s most expensive.

”If you want to use flexicurity as a model, you need to know two things. Firstly, it is a very large investment. Secondly, the workers must be able to trust they will actually get the job security offered to them. In Germany they’re having a hard time convincing unions that it should be easier to sack people. One reason could be that unions and workers don’t trust that the social safety net is strong enough. The system is hard to build up and develop during a crisis”, says Per Kongshøj Madsen. 

”The French employment minister called the Danish model ‘the Danish miracle’. Do you agree?” 

”No, there are no miracles. It’s more about luck, and that Denmark, as a small nation, has been forced to find solutions through compromise. Denmark wanted to both develop a welfare state and have many small businesses dependent on being able to dismiss workers in order to survive and adapt to the market”, says Per Kongshøj Madsen. 

”But I am happy. I’m convinced that the flexibility and the job security has been key to Denmark’s ability to adapt, in order for businesses to follow up the demands that are being made. It has made us swift footed, and enabled us to get rid of the heavy industries of yesteryears like textile, many of the old shipyards and other old industries which present so many problems in other countries. Instead we’ve been able to transform our production to become innovative and developing”, says Per Kongshøj Madsen.

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