Transforming social policy in Europe? The EC's parental leave directive and misfit in the 15 member states
This paper presents first results from a collaborative research project which analyzes the national transposition, enforcement and application of six European labor law Directives in all 15 member states. Looking at the case of the EC's parental leave Directive (1996), it draws conclusions about the domestic impact of European social policy standards. It will interest practitioners as much as labor law experts that, in fact, adaptational pressure was created in all 15 member states. Although the overall economic impact of the Directive in terms of costs was rather modest, every single country had to change its rules. While misfit was rather small in Finland, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, the other member states were confronted with significant adaptation pressure. Political theorists may be surprised that our results cast doubts on the theoretical usefulness of focusing too much on matches or mismatches between European policies and domestic structures. We show that a very low degree of misfit may sometimes even be a problem rather than a condition for success and that the existence of considerable adaptational pressure may under certain conditions even be conducive to smooth implementation. In addition, several member states not only eliminated the misfit created by the Directive, but raised their domestic standards above the European minimum requirements.
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