Through a comparative analysis of individual reactions to socio-economic
change and employment conditions, the EU study aims to stimulate debate on the
flexibility and security of Europe's social model. With a view to the
alarming levels of xenophobia and anti-semitism and the increase in support for
right-wing populist or extremist parties, the SIREN project provides an
assessment of the extent to which changes in working life make people more
receptive to right-wing extremism and populism as well as xenophobia, extreme
nationalism and racism.
Flexibility, insecurity and worsening of social conditions
The study found that discontent contributing to electoral support for
extremist parties stemmed from a series of causes including the restructuring of
the private and public sectors, which has led to high levels of perceived job
insecurity. Some 27% of the working population has experienced a decrease in job
security over the last 5 years, while only 18% report an increase and 55% report
stable job security. Older workers are particularly affected by increased
employment insecurity and poor working conditions.
Cuts in welfare spending and fewer social protection mechanisms have also led
to perceptions of greater social insecurity. Precarious employment and living
situations also contribute to people feeling powerless, unable to plan for the
future and more susceptible to extremist parties. Increased job competition,
losses and stress in a deteriorating work climate also leads to people feeling a
sense of injustice.
Not only "modernisation losers" are receptive to the extreme
The findings confirm that socio-economic changes play an important role in
explaining the rise of right-wing populism in European countries. However, the
study does not indicate a simple relation between negative changes in work and
attraction to right-wing populism. According to the study, not only
"modernisation losers", but also some "modernisation
winners" are particularly attracted to the extreme right. The reasons are
different for each of these groups.
Some "winners" turned out to be very competitive, to strongly
identify with their company, to be attracted by individualistic views and hold
the conviction that some social groups should dominate over others. Many
"losers" showed strong feelings of injustice and held the conviction
that people like themselves are not sufficiently rewarded for the work they do.
This tended to foster a displaced aggressive reaction, leading to prejudice
against immigrants and minorities and authoritarian attitudes.
Policy implications for Europe
Changes in working conditions by themselves do not always and necessarily
lead to support for the extreme right. According to the study, such a reaction
can only be understood when taking into account workers' perception of
political powerlessness and politicians' perceived lack of interest in the
workers' world. Consequently the respondents' perception of a lack
of recognition of their problems in national and European politics has led to a
crisis of representation.
Potential policies to be discussed at the Brussels' workshop to help
reduce xenophobia and racism and mitigate underlying social problems could
include ways to remedy this representation crisis in companies, the economy and
the political sphere as a whole. Other policies to be discussed include
improving actual and perceived job security and working conditions in Europe;
strengthening initiatives against racism and xenophobia and avoiding
"scapegoating" by drawing attention to the actual causes of social
problems; and working with the media towards guidelines to ensure the fair
treatment of migrants.
For further information please visit:
onclick="popup(this.href);return false" href="http://www.siren.at/en/">http://www.siren.at/en/