Is the method used by the European Union to implement the European Employment Strategy. Its defining characteristic is the avoidance of ‘hard law’ (i.e. directives) to secure member state compliance, and a reliance instead on soft law. The precise method has varied since the launch of the employment strategy in 1997 but is based essentially on the European Commission drawing up guidelines and targets, in consultation with member states and the European social partners, which are to be followed in national labour market/employment policies. The guidelines are meant to embody ‘best practice’ within European public policy and are expressed through associated long-term, medium and short-term objectives and targets (e.g. for increasing the employment rate for different categories of worker). Once they have been ratified by the European Council, member states have to produce a National Reform Plan (NRP) (originally a National Action Plan) on how well they have responded to and implemented the guidelines. The Commission reviews the NRPs of all member states on an annual basis, and a Joint Employment Report is produced which reviews labour market developments across the EU and comments on each member state's performance and contains recommendations. It can be noted that the system is based on comparison across states, information sharing, and the formulation of good practice, with the only sanction being a loss of reputation or embarrassment to a national government if its NRP does not receive favourable comment.
Subjects: Human Resource Management.