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Labour market dualization and social policy in pandemic times: an in-depth analysis of private consumption services in Europe

Emmanuele Pavolini (SPOCRI, University of Macerata, Macerata, Italy)
Giovanna Fullin (Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milano, Italy)
Gemma Scalise (Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milano, Italy)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 16 August 2022

51

Abstract

Purpose

This article contributes to the debate on how social policies and labour market regulation have been used to limit the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic by focusing on one specific economic segment of European labour markets: private consumption services, such as trade, tourism, catering and other support services.

Design/methodology/approach

The analysis combines mixed methods and a variety of sources. First, we built a set of indicators from the EU-LFS microdata for 2019 and the 2018 Eurostat “Structure of earnings survey” and performed a cluster analysis (k-means) on the dimensions and indicators considered. Second, we elaborated EU-LFS data covering 2019 and 2020 (by quarter) and OECD 2020 data, and finally we traced Covid-related policy reforms for the period March 2020–December 2021 and analysed documents and information collected in different policy repositories.

Findings

The paper shows the relevance and characteristics of private consumption services in different countries, demonstrating that so-called labour market “outsiders” are highly represented in this sector and illustrates the policies adopted to respond to the pandemic in different European countries. The paper asks whether this emergency has been a window of opportunity to redefine regulation in this sector, making it more inclusive. It demonstrates, however, that the common approach in Europe has been dominated by temporary, short-term and one-off measures, which do not represent major changes to the social security schemes that were in place before the pandemic.

Originality/value

This article builds on the literature on labour market dualization, but approaches the concept from a different perspective – one not centred on the nature of employment relations (stable/unstable) but on economic sectors/branches. This article does not, therefore, discuss in general terms what happened to labour market outsiders during the pandemic, but rather focus attention on a specific group of workers who are highly exposed to risks stemming from dualization: those employed in the private consumption services. The economic sector perspective is an integrative way of framing dualization which is still under-researched.

Keywords

Citation

Pavolini, E., Fullin, G. and Scalise, G. (2022), "Labour market dualization and social policy in pandemic times: an in-depth analysis of private consumption services in Europe", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-03-2022-0074

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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