Leuven, Belgium, 26 November 2023 – The first WeLaR workshop, “Labour market supply: What policies to encourage labour market participation and ensure that no one is left behind?”, held on 24 November in Leuven and online, featured seven presentations and gathered almost 30 participants, sparking lively discussions.
The first session, on labour market participation and chaired by Stéphanie Cassilde (FOREM), started with a presentation by Zuzanna Kowalik (IBS), who analysed working conditions and job quality among drivers working for taxi and delivery on gig platforms in Poland. She found that migrants, who constitute about a third of the group, have different motivations to take up this type of job than natives. Her presentation highlighted disparities between more and less recent migrants, with the latter engaging in contract-less work three times more frequently. Moreover, their terms of employment, working hours, work-life balance and job satisfaction are significantly lower. Migrants tend to cluster on taxi platforms which offer inferior working conditions. Those who started platform jobs immediately after arriving in Poland are particularly deprived.
Next, Allison Dunne (HIVA KU Leuven) talked about research within the MICHELLE project on how the transition to a circular economy is impacting the labour market in Flanders (Belgium). She showed that the transition does not have such a drastic effect on the labour force as, for instance, digital transformation. The transition is an emerging source of job creation, but there is a problem of skills mismatch. The skills that will gain importance as result of this transition are not specifically related to particular jobs, but those that can used in a variety of work settings: problem-solving, value chain thinking, flexibility, leadership, critical thinking, and collaboration.
The session ended with a presentation by Maryna Tverdostup (wiiw), who discussed how European couples divide their time between paid employment and household chores (excluding childcare). The research, conducted as part of the Horizon Europe WeLaR project, shows that although female labour market attachment is strengthening, housework remains divided according to traditional gender roles. Higher female labour market attachment and higher overall degrees of overall gender equality are associated with a smaller within-couple housework disparity. Couples’ division of housework gets more egalitarian as a wife’s worktime surpasses her husband’s. Nevertheless, Tverdostup emphasised the many disparities among European countries.
The second session, on vulnerable groups and public policies, was chaired by Laurène Thil (HIVA KU Leuven). Patricia Urban (CEPS) presented a novel taxonomy of green jobs developed within the Horizon Europe project TransEuroWorkS. She argued that this taxonomy addresses the shortcomings in existing green jobs classifications by integrating inputs and intuitions from different classifications. She also stressed that in the transition to the green economy, current efforts to re- and upskill the workforce tend to be sector-specific, neglecting the impact on the other branches of the economy. To ensure that structural labour market changes induced by the green transition happen in a socially just manner that protects vulnerable groups, policy makers should ensure that such efforts take a holistic approach.
In the next presentation, Ramón Peña-Casas (OSE) focused on the policies that address in-work poverty in Europe. He stressed the importance of taking account of individual and household characteristics when measuring in-work poverty. He showed that certain social groups face a considerably higher risk of poverty, and for some, the risk of in-work poverty has risen significantly in recent years. He provided evidence that a variety of measures deployed by EU governments, such as the minimum wage and family benefits, help combat in-work poverty even though this is not their stated goal. He also showed that minimum wages alone are insufficient to support more than one person in a household.
Rachel Scarfe (University of Edinburgh) presented a theoretical labour market model that incorporates casual work and empirical evidence. While casual work means both workers’ supply of labour and employers’ demand for it can be adjusted quickly, this comes at the expense of certainty for both sides. She demonstrated that causal jobs are concentrated in the bottom end of the wage distribution and are impacted by minimum wage policies. Her findings also show that a ban on casual jobs leads to higher unemployment, a decrease in the rate of finding jobs and in the number of casual jobs, but an increase in the number of regular jobs.
Ludivine Martin (LISER) closed the session by presenting a paper from the H2020 Project UNTANGLED on the impact of technological transformation and demographic changes on worker welfare across Europe. The paper finds that the majority of European regions will benefit from robotisation and automation, yet the effect will be heterogeneous across countries, regions, sectors, and occupations. Professionals (of varying education levels) were projected as the most likely beneficiaries of robotisation and automation. In European regions classified as manufacturing-dominated economies, such as Germany and Belgium, automation translates into an influx of workers into production. By contrast, in service-dominated economies, mainly Spain, France and Poland, automation stimulates the efficient supply of workers in mostly advanced services. Policy makers must take decisive action to ensure the economic boost generated by increased digital transformation is shared fairly across regions.
The detailed programme is available HERE