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From Employability to Capability: An Exploratory Approach on the Quality of Employment

Aims & objectives

This project was funded by the European Commission under its Fifth Framework Programme and involved collaboration between the CBR and two French research centres, IDHE, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, and the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Ange Guépin, University of Nantes.  The aim was to undertake an exploratory theoretical and methodological analysis of the issue of the quality of employment in the EU. Since the Lisbon and Nice summits, the promotion of employment quality has been one of the most important items in the process of European construction in the social and employment fields.  The project explored the relevance to this issue of Amartya Sen’s capability approach. The capability concept has numerous applications to the issue of the quality of employment: these include mobility of workers within and between enterprises; efforts to reconcile work and family life; access to social protection of various types; and measures to promote employability and access to the labour market. The project provided short-term funding between May and September 2002 for the development by the network of a literature review of the use of the capability concept in the field of European construction, and the initial development of statistical indicators for relating the quality of employment to capabilities. This work was carried out in preparation for a more extensive three-year programme of research, also funded by the European Commission, which began in the autumn of 2002 (see project 2.12).

Results & dissemination

The principal finding of the work is that the capability concept has numerous applications in the context of issues relating to the quality of employment: these include mobility of workers within and between enterprises; efforts to reconcile work and family life; access to social protection of various types; and measures to promote employability and access to the labour market. The notion of capability also provides a useful starting point for moving beyond the current 'employability' debate and uniting the goal of competitiveness with the recognition and protection of fundamental human rights of the kind contained in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Books

Buchell, B., Deakin, S., Michie, J. and Rubery, J. (2003) Systems of Production: Markets, Organisations and Performance (London: Routledge)

Journal articles

Barnard, C., Deakin, S. and Hobbs, R. (2001) 'Capabilities and rights: an emerging agenda for social policy policy?' Industrial Relations Journal, 32(5): 464-479

Barnard, C., Deakin, S. and Kilpatrick, C. (2002) 'Equality, non-discrimination and the labour market in the UK', INternational Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, 18(2): 129-147.

Blackburn, R., Browne, J., Brookes, B. and Jarman, J. (2001) 'Explaining gender segregation', British Journal of Sociology, 53: 513-36.

Book chapters

Barnard, C., Deakin, S. and Hobbs, R. (2002) 'Capabilities and rights: an emerging agenda for social policy?' in Towers, B. and Terry, M. (eds) European Industrial Relations Annual Review 2000/2001, Oxford, Blackwell, 147-167.

Browne, J., Deakin, S. and Wilkinson, F. (2003) 'Capabilities, social rights and European integration', forthcoming Salais, R and Villeneuve, R. (eds) Towards a European Politics of Capabilities (Cambridge: CUP).

Deakin, S (2001) 'The many futures of the contract of employment' in Conaghan, J., Fischl, M. and Klare, K. (eds) Labour Law in the era of globalisation: transformative practices and possibilities (Oxford: OUP)

Deakin, S (2002) 'Equality, non-discrimination and the labour market: a commentary on Richard Epstein's critique of anti-discrimination laws', in Epstein, RA (ed) Equal Opportunity or More Opportunity? The good thing about discrimination. London: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 41-66.

Deakin, S. (2003) 'Social rights and the market: an evolutionary perspective', in Buchell, B., Deakin, S., Michie, J. and Rubery, J. (eds) Systems of Production: Markets, Organisations and Performance, London, Routledge, 74-88.

Deakin, S and Browne, J (2003) 'Social rights and the market order: adapting the capability approach', in Hervey, T. and Kenner, J. (eds) Economic and Social Rights under the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, Oxford, Hart.

Rubery, J., Burchell, B. Deakin, S., Michie, J. and Rubery, J (2003) 'Productive systems: introduction and overview', in Buchell, B., Deakin, S., Michie, J. and Rubery, J (eds) Systems of Production: Markets, Organisations and Performance, London, Routledge, 1-9.

Working papers

Browne, J (2002) 'Gender pay inequality: a question for corporate social responsibility?', CBR Working Papers No 251.

Browne, J., Deakin, S. and Wilkinson, F. (2002) 'Capabilities, social rights and European integration', CBR Working Paper No. 253.

Deakin, S. and Browne, J. (2003) 'Social rights and the market order: adapting the capability approach', mimeo, CBR

Project leader

Simon Deakin

Research fellow

Jude Browne

Research associate

Frank Wilkinson

Project status

Completed