In his Toulon speech on 1 December 2011, President Sarkozy of France expressed his discontent with ‘social and fiscal dumping’ in Europe and condemned EU member states’ ‘disloyal competition’ practices (The Economist, 2011). At about the same time, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) launched consultations with its member organizations in preparation for a panEuropean drive ‘against wage and social dumping’. Among the initiatives envisaged in the campaign, the ETUC intended to publish a black book revealing instances of social dumping in EU member states, which could then be used as a shaming device in the battle against attempts ‘to destroy national social and labour standards’ (ETUC, 2011). The business community seems equally concerned about the issue, albeit for a different reason: in its 2012 Annual Report, the European Construction Industry Federation maintained that preventing social dumping was crucial for the preservation of the sector’s competitiveness (FIEC, 2012). None of these actors, however, provides a definition of social dumping, which is symptomatic for broader trends in Europe: even though the term appears regularly in the public discourse and in policymaking circles, it is usually used by differing proponents in the manner that best suits their particular argument, thus opening the door for misconceptions and ill-grounded accusations. In a similar vein, social dumping has so far received limited scholarly attention. It seems that the normative clout and emotional load accompanying the term’s popular use has discouraged scholars from addressing the issue in more detail, leaving unclear both the mechanism behind the notion and its relation to socioeconomic changes in Europe – in particular, to the process of EU integration. Despite the vagueness of the term, however, it is still capable of influencing actors’ strategies and government policies. The introduction of transition periods temporarily restricting the access of the workforces of candidate countries to the labour markets of the old EU member states, as well as the failure of the French and Dutch EU Constitutional Treaty referenda, may be largely seen as resulting from the presence of real or perceived social dumping concerns within European societies. In view of the high political resonance of social dumping in Europe on the one hand and the term’s ambiguity on the other, there is a need to systematize the concept and to analyse specific instances of social dumping pursued in the
EU context. These two tasks are taken up in this volume. Building on recent contributions in the fields of economic theory, economic sociology and institutional political economy, we define social dumping as the practice, undertaken by self-interested market participants, of undermining or evading existing social regulations with the aim of gaining a competitive advantage. We then show how the two major EU integration projects – the creation of the Internal Market, and EU enlargement to the east and to the south – have provided market actors with new incentives and strategic opportunities to contest or circumvent transnational and national social regulations. Subsequent chapters examine social dumping practices that have developed in the course of EU economic integration, outline the process of formation of social standards and document trade unions’ reactions to social dumping threats. The concluding chapter reflects on the long-and short-term effects of social dumping. It argues that, in the short run, social dumping exerts downward pressure on wages and working conditions in Europe. If pursued by a large number of actors over a long period of time however, it could considerably weaken the beneficial social effects of economic growth, threaten social cohesion and even lead to the disintegration of the market order.