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Thematic priorities

Societal trends and structural changes

Research carried out in this area identifies societal trends such as changing family structures, cultural patterns and value systems – and acknowledges such problems as xenophobia and racism. The economic changes affecting the labour market, and mechanisms for social protection, inequality and discrimination are also investigated.

This research area aims to provide a better understanding of changing employment patterns such as flexible, part-time and temporary work, and to provide information on changing gender stereotypes. Furthermore, research focuses on education and training, and the role these two key variables can play in preparing individuals for the changing political and socio-economic environment.

New family structures shape social care system

As the nature of families change, so do the systems to care for vulnerable members – young children and older people. Projects examine how to combine family care with more formal systems provided by local authorities, or voluntary organisations. For example, the project ‘New kinds of families, new kinds of social care: shaping multidimensional European policies for informal and formal care’ focuses on four family types – single parent, multi-career, migrant and multigenerational families. It describes how some families in Finland, France, Italy, Portugal and the UK are developing new ways of caring.

Technology, society and employment

It is important to study the relationship between technology and society so the latter can derive full benefit from technological developments. The research examines the ways in which suppliers, users, decision-makers and public authorities work together in assessing technological impact, and how public authorities, in particular, can then apply the results.

The second main research strand assesses the link between technological changes and employment. Here work is being undertaken on teleworking, work organisation and skill development. Another theme of this research area examines the role of innovation in education, training and life-long learning.

Regional adjustment for technological change

Unemployment is a persistent problem in those Europe’s provincial regions not benefiting from technological developments, and is chronic in labour-intensive industries such as textiles, footwear and electronic assembly. Research in France, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK compares how regions are tackling the problem of declining industry, suggesting ways of adjusting their employment strategies.

Governance and citizenship

In the context of European integration, the role of the different levels of governance in Europe – local, regional, national, supranational and global – need to be re-assessed. Research in this field aims to identify and understand how multiple levels and new modes of governance can be developed, while maintaining accountability. The issue here is to ensure democratic systems work properly under new conditions, such as the changing roles of public and private sectors, changing relationship between representative institutions and civil society organisations, and so on.

At the same time, it is important to understand the formation and co-existence of multiple actors, and to encourage Europe’s citizens to participate in public debate – which is instrumental in formulating and implementing policy. Research is currently underway to learn how the media and cultural elements like language, history, gender, religion, and migration influence this.

Socio-economic challenges for democracy and EU Enlargement

EU enlargement will bring changes and challenges. The rapid move towards democratisation by EU applicant countries’ and the subsequent transformation of their political and socio-economic value systems has led to some tensions – and given rise to concern amongst current EU members as accession approaches.

In this project, studies are beingcarried out in eight applicant countries and some Member States to identify and compare the political, social and cultural preferences in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe – and examine the implications of political culture on EU enlargement.

New development models fostering growth and employment

This work explores new sustainable development models which foster growth, job creation, equal opportunities, and reduce inequality while improving the quality of life. Within this process, the role of the public sector is explored and several indicators and methodologies are developed to assess the economic and social added-value of production models. This helps to identify policies best adapted to the European economic area, which take into account regional and demographic differences. Lastly, research concentrates on the analysis of issues such as organisational innovation, new types of work and employment, including the working potential of the older population.

Growth and European Labour Markets

This project analyses the relationship between growth and employment. First, it looks at the amount of employment generated by economic growth, then compares this within Europe and with other industrial countries. The study focuses on the institutional arrangements in the labour market in terms of both employment growth and the ‘equilibrium’ rate of unemployment. Results from the study will go towards updating the EU White Book on employment, competitiveness and growth.

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Thematic priorities