The ‘Social Market Economy’ in a (Heterogeneous) Social Europe: Does it Make a Difference?



In this article we take managing migration and managing the gig economy as a prism through which to examine not only whether the phrase ‘social market economy’ has any real substance, but also whether it offers any guidance as to how the European Union (EU) may respond in the future. We argue that the language of ‘social market economy’, a concept drafted in the halcyon days prior to the financial and migration crises, serves only to highlight the gap between rhetoric and reality. We identify two main reasons for this, namely a lack of legal competence and a lack of political will. We then consider whether the objective of attaining a ‘social market economy’ can be operationalised in any way. In the light of the establishment of the European Social Pillar, we argue that it can, yet  within certain limits. We conclude by arguing that the lack of clear communication by the EU, both of its successes and also of the limits on its powers, means that it receives little credit for the good it is able to do. It also unnecessarily raises expectations among the public about what it can achieve. This inevitably leads to the disappointment generated by unfulfilled expectations.



EUsocial pillarsolidaritymigrationgig economy
  • Year: 2019
  • Volume: 15 Issue: 2
  • Page/Article: 47-63
  • DOI: 10.18352/ulr.510
  • Published on 4 Sep 2019
  • Peer Reviewed