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Beyond the Flexibility/Security Trade-Off: Reconciling Confident Consumers with Insecure Workers


  • Colin Crouch is at the University of Warwick.


The article proposes an analysis of labour markets and related social policy that corrects the supply-side emphasis that has dominated economic policy since the decline of Keynesian approaches in the late 1970s. It starts from a potential tension between the apparent need of economies for both flexible workers and confident consumers. This can be resolved through three different approaches: separating insecure workers from secure consumers, separating consumption from labour incomes, and integrating flexibility and security within the labour market itself. These approaches are played out across four different contexts: place, time, externalizing problems on to minorities within a given community, internalizing problems within the community. Up to 19 different public policies and corporate practices are identified, occupying different positions on the framework. These go considerably beyond the issues of industrial relations institutions and related social policy that are the normal focus of labour market studies.