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Professor Colin Williams invited to discuss proposed European Labour Authority in the European Parliament

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Dr Colin Williams European Parliament

Brexit negotiations may be the only news for the UK in relation to the European Union, but it is very much business as usual in the European Parliament. Colin Williams, Professor of Public Policy in Sheffield University Management School (SUMS), was invited on 6th June to discuss the proposal for a European Labour Authority in the European Parliament.

The European Labour Authority aims to ensure that EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in fair, simple and effective way. It was announced in September 2017 by the president of the European Commission and on 13 March, the legislative proposal was presented as part of the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights. It is proposed that the Authority will be up and running in 2019 and is expected to reach its full operational capacity by 2023.

Invited by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D Group), the second largest grouping of MEPs in the Parliament, Professor Williams made the case for a real and effective European Labour Authority able to enforce labour and social rights and ensure rules on labour mobility fairly. Drawing upon his experiences as lead expert to the European Commission’s European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work, he called for a greater focus in the legislative proposal upon developing the capabilities and capacities of Member States to tackle labour abuse and enforce workers’ rights. He also called for a shift away from solely dealing with labour abuses after they occurred and towards preventing them from happening in the first place.

Professor Williams shared the platform with the Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Unions Confederation (representing 45 million members), and the European Commission official responsible for the legislative proposal. The debate was live-streamed and interpreted in five languages.

For further information: http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-we-need-effective-european-labour-authority-protects-workers-rights-and-ensures-fair

Providing advice to the West Balkans 6 on EU accession

Monday, June 4th, 2018
  • Professor Colin Williams of Sheffield University Management School has been appointed to advise six countries in the West Balkans on their accession to the European Union from 2025. 
  • Prof Williams will provide advice on the development of strategies for tackling undeclared work in six countries; Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.  

Brexit may be the hot news in the UK but other countries in Europe recognise the advantages of EU membership and are actively seeking to join the EU family. Colin Williams, Professor of Public Policy at Sheffield University Management School, has been appointed to advise six countries in the West Balkans on their accession to the European Union from 2025.

The appointment of Prof Williams follows a keynote speech he delivered at the first European Commission conference in the West Balkans region in January 2018, on the subject of boosting the social dimension.  

Working with the Regional Cooperation Council, the objective of Professor Williams is to align the strategies towards tackling informal employment in these six countries with the approaches being adopted in the European Union. If achieved this will facilitate their smooth accession, by demonstrating how they are already adopting the good practices being pursued in the EU member states.

Professor Williams will provide advice on the development of strategies for tackling undeclared work in the six countries. As Professor Williams comments, “cash-in-hand or undeclared work is the equivalent of some 25-35% of GDP in these countries, and effective strategies need to be put in place to smooth the accession process into the EU”.

Following an initial diagnostic report and the production of a roadmap for each country, the second and much more arduous stage will entail seeking ‘buy-in’ from the governments and social partners in each country.

This project follows a raft of previous work in the region:

  • In 2010, Prof Williams undertook a similar exercise prior to the entrance of Croatia into the EU.
  • In 2016, Prof Williams successfully negotiated one of the four ‘bailout conditions’ with Greece, helping them develop a strategy to tackle their large undeclared economy.
  • From 2013-2017 Prof Williams was Principal Investigator on a £1.2 million Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships Programme grant to develop the capacity and capability for tackling undeclared work in the region.   

Implementing Sustainable Development Goal #8 in the Republic of Azerbaijan

Monday, May 21st, 2018

 

  • Professor Colin Williams has been appointed as Advisor to the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan to implement Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8)
  • On 21 May, Williams presented his preliminary findings to a conference in Azerbaijan hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister
  • SDG8 promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, productive employment, and decent work for all

 

Colin Williams, Professor of Public Policy at Sheffield University Management School, has been appointed as Advisor to the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan. He will be overseeing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8).

The United Nations organisation responsible for SDG8 – the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has appointed Williams to oversee its successful implementation in the Republic of Azerbaijan. SDG8 seeks to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, productive employment, and decent work for all.

Drawing upon his expertise in supporting the transition from the informal to the formal economy, Williams is working closely with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection as well as the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Taxes.

Professor Williams states “I am keen to implement a holistic approach towards creating decent work, by formalising the informal economy. I developed this strategy in the context of the European Union. This pursues a strategic, integrated and coordinated approach based on the full range of measures available”.

Suggested initiatives include:

  • designing and implementing deterrents to working in the informal economy
  • introducing incentives to make work in the formal economy easier and more beneficial (e.g. modernising access to social insurance and medical insurance, introducing unemployment benefits, mortgages, etc.)
  • building the social contract between citizens and the government using education and awareness raising initiatives

 

On 21 May, Williams presented his preliminary findings to a conference in Azerbaijan hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister. The conference marked the first visit by a Director General of the ILO to Azerbaijan. The event was also attended by government Ministers from Russia, Belarus, Afghanistan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Uzbekistan, also interested to discuss how to implement both SDG8 and to formalise their informal economies.

In support of decent work: Prof Colin Williams’ European Commission platform continues significant impact across EU

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Prof Colin Williams, Chair in Public Policy at the Management School, is engaged in an ongoing project with the European Commission addressing undeclared work.

Tackling the undeclared economy has become a critical issue on the policy agendas of supra-national agencies and governments in recent years, leading to action from Prof Williams and his team in the Cluster for Research on the Informal Sector and Policy (CRISP).

In early September, the International Training Centre of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) in Turin hosted a global knowledge sharing forum on making the transition from the informal to the formal economy. This was attended by Ministers and senior government officials from 17 countries including Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam.

Professor Williams opened the five-day forum and led a panel which presented his experiences on formalising the informal economy in Europe including policy approaches that work and those that don’t. He said: “The intention of this forum was to allow countries to engage in a process of mutual learning. This topic is important when we realise that 60 per cent of workers globally are employed in the informal economy where they are unregistered and have no labour rights or entitlements, such as to holidays, minimum wages, and health and safety standards. Across the world, the issue of achieving ‘decent work’ is seen as a key issue for all governments, and the aim of the ILO is to disseminate best practice on how this can be achieved.”

Prof Williams’ critical work continues this month (September 2017) as he takes the Mutual Assistance Project to Latvia with the aim of improving the performance of their State Labour Inspectorate in dealing effectively with undeclared work.

This platform was launched in 2016 and provides a forum at EU level where enforcement authorities and social partners can learn from each other. The work programmes include seminars, staff exchanges and training, as well as the development of toolkits, studies and mutual assistance projects. Prof Williams said: “Officials in Latvia have taken this opportunity to be counselled in an area where they would like to see improvement. Romania are reporting great progress after a similar visit in November 2016, so we will be mirroring that approach which led to policy recommendations about how they could improve as well as strategic and operational guidance.

“The expert team ​visiting Latvia will focus on discussing areas where the ​​State Labour Inspectorate can benefit from the mutual learning process​, including strategic management​ practices; operational processes; evidence-based design and implementation of initiatives​; management of partnerships; and allocation of resources.”

Prof Williams is conducting a follow-up visit to Romania at the end of this month and will visit Latvia to evaluate its success in late 2018.

Shadows: CRISP is tackling Undeclared Work in the European Union

Monday, February 27th, 2017

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The Cluster for Research on the Informal Sector and Policy (CRISP), based in the Management School, has reinforced its standing as the world’s largest group of researchers studying the informal sector with a major Marie Curie grant.

The €200,000 project will see a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, Dr Ioana A Horodnic from Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi in Romania, spend two years with CRISP under the supervision of Prof Colin C Williams (pictured above).

Prof Williams said: “Paid transactions that are not declared to the state for tax, social security and/or labour law purposes when they should be declared, equal some 33 per cent of official GDP globally. As such, tackling undeclared economy has become a core issue on the policy agendas of supra-national agencies and governments. CRISP is pioneering research in this area.”

There are two policy approaches to tackling undeclared work: a ‘rational economic actor’ approach that ensures that payoff from undeclared work is not outweighed by the costs; and a ‘social actor’ approach grounded in a view that undeclared work arises when tax morale is low.

Prof Williams continued: “This Marie Curie Fellowship aims to advance knowledge, by evaluating not only the effectiveness of using each approach to reduce undeclared work across the European Union, but also by developing a fresh re-theorization of tackling undeclared work and, for the first time, analysing the interaction effects between these two approaches. The outcome will be to greatly increase understanding of the undeclared economy and provide policy relevant results.”

This project will further advance the world-leading reputation of CRISP which, in collaboration with North American private sector consultancy, ICF International, has recently secured a €5.6million, four-year contract from the European Commission to provide the expert services to the European Platform for Tackling Undeclared Work.

Find out more about CRISP here: www.sheffield.ac.uk/woerrc/crisp

Prof Williams leads Greek government bailout plan on undeclared economy

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Professor Colin Williams, chair in public policy at the Management School, is leading the Greek government’s action plan to tackle their undeclared economy. A recent report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency, provides a set of policy recommendations informed by Prof Williams’s (pictured above) expert knowledge, which will set Greece on the right path to receiving their bailout money from the European Commission.

The ILO will now establish a road map with the Greek government to decide the timetable for the implementation of the legislative and component policy measures. They expressed special thanks to the high level team of experts that prepared the comprehensive diagnostic report, led by Prof Williams.

For the Greek government to receive debt relief, one of the five conditions agreed in August 2015 was that they would develop a national action plan to tackle their undeclared economy. Funded by the European Commission, Prof Williams has led the mission to Greece to produce this plan. Following a period of extensive consultation by him with the Greek government, the Bank of Greece, trade unions and employer organisations, it was accepted and validated by all partners in July.

Prof Williams has written extensively on ‘best practice’ policy approaches and measures for tackling the undeclared economy. A key aspect of his work is to use institutional theory to explain the undeclared economy. To tackle the undeclared economy, he has argued that formal institutional failings need to be addressed which produce a lack of alignment between the laws and regulations, and citizens’ and businesses’ beliefs about the acceptability of operating on an undeclared basis.  The national action plan produced for Greece is based on tackling these formal institutional failings.

Prior to Prof Williams leading the mission to Greece, the employer representative organisations held four national-level workshops regarding their diagnosis of the problem and their view of the policy measures required. The trade union movement in Greece held two workshops to do the same. These reports were then presented to Prof Williams on his arrival in Greece in April 2016 at the commencement of his diagnostic mission.

Click here to read the ILO’s report.

Out of the shadows: SUMS contributes to high-level conference on combating undeclared work in the EU

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Seating Delegates

In Dubrovnik in late April 2015, Deputy Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials from 24 European countries met to discuss how they could cooperate to tackle the undeclared economy.

Professor Colin Williams from Sheffield University Management School was invited by the host, Milanka Opacic, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, to provide the keynote address on approaches towards tackling undeclared work in the European Union.

The outcome, expressed well by Helena Dalli, Minister of Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties in the Maltese government, was a raised awareness that besides complementing the traditional ‘sticks’ approach that punishes non-compliance with more ‘carrots’ to reward compliance, there was also a need for introducing awareness campaigns on the consequences of undeclared work targeted at enterprises, workers and the general public.

Summarising the view of many countries, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Ivaiol Kalfin stated: “Promotion of regulated labour relations between Bulgaria and other EU and non-EU countries is a priority of the government”. The European Commission representative present, Jader Cane, urged governments to make full use of the European Social Fund to undertake coordinated responses.

Professor Colin Williams is currently coordinating a Marie Curie project entitled ‘Out of the shadows: developing capacities and capabilities for tackling undeclared work in Bulgaria, Croatia and FYR Macedonia’, which is seeking to raise understanding among South-East European governments about the need to transcend the ‘sticks’ and ‘carrots’ approach and to tackle it more indirectly by introducing greater awareness amongst citizens of the consequences of undeclared work so that they self-regulate themselves, rather than need to be forced to be compliant through enforcement authorities.

See the website for this project here.

Combating illegal trade and the shadow economy in Europe – SUMS’ Professor Colin Williams paves the way

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

 CW-speaking  ITIC

Senior tax policy, tax administration and customs officials from 19 Eurasian countries met in Bucharest at the end of April 2015 to learn more about the latest strategies to tackle multibillion-dollar revenue losses stemming from illegal trade, counterfeits, and other aspects of the shadow economy.

Sheffield University Management School’s Professor Colin Williams (pictured above, and with other conference delegates) gave the opening academic overview (PDF) and closing review of policy approaches.

As one of only two academic experts invited, other speakers included senior officials from the U.S. State Department, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Customs Organization, Interpol and Europol, as well as senior officials from multi-national corporations in the tobacco (JT International, British American Tobacco), alcohol (SABMiller) and pharmaceuticals (Pfizer) industries.

The two-day ‘International Conference on the Shadow Economy and Taxation’ was co-hosted by the International Tax and Investment Center, a non-profit research and education organisation focused on tax reform and public-private initiatives to improve the investment climate in transition economies, and Euromonitor Business Consulting Services.

Professor Williams, along with experienced enforcement officials, concluded the conference by advising that a new approach was essential as we cannot police ourselves out of the current situation, and argued that we need to make it easier and more attractive for people and businesses to move from the shadow to the formal economy.

European Parliament accepts SUMS-designed platform to challenge undeclared work

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

The European Commission has proposed the creation of a European Platform, designed by Professor Colin Williams (pictured above) at Sheffield University Management School, to improve cooperation at EU level in order to prevent and deter undeclared work more effectively.

The Platform will bring together various national enforcement bodies involved in the fight against undeclared work, a phenomenon that causes serious damage to working conditions, fair competition and public budgets.

EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, said: “Undeclared work deprives workers of social protection, puts their health and safety at risk and lowers labour standards. It also undermines fair competition for businesses and endangers the sustainability of public finances and social security systems. In the end, everybody loses. This is why the Commission is fully committed to support Member States in tackling this scourge, so we can protect workers, level the playing field for companies and safeguard fiscal revenue”

The new Platform would bring together all enforcement bodies involved in tackling undeclared work, such as labour and social security inspectorates and tax and migration authorities, as well as other stakeholders, such as EU-level representatives of employers and employees. The proposal envisages that all Member States should be members of the Platform, as undeclared work affects all of them, and joint participation of all EU countries is crucial to address cross-border situations.

The Platform would fill a vacuum at the EU level, where until now undeclared work is discussed sporadically and in an uncoordinated way in different committees and working groups. It would allow for more effective cooperation between those who deal with undeclared work on the ground every day.

Read more about the Platform in the European Commission’s press release: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-387_en.htm?locale=en

You can find some FAQs on the platform here:
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-271_en.htm?locale=en

Bringing the undeclared economy out of the shadows: the role of temporary work agencies

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

In early 2014, Professor Colin Williams of Sheffield University Management School (pictured above) was commissioned by Randstad, one of the leading HR service providers in the world operating in 39 countries, to provide the central feature article for their annual global report, Flexibility@work 2014.

Professor Williams, in collaboration with Piet Renooy, director of Regioplan, an Amsterdam-based consultancy company, explore a key facet of international employment trends in the flexible labour market, namely the causes of undeclared work and how to prevent businesses not declaring work for tax, social security or labour law purposes. It is now widely acknowledged that the large and growing undeclared economy lowers the quality of work and working conditions, undermines the business environment through unfair competition, and puts at risk the financial sustainability of social protection systems.

Clearly then, undeclared work practices should not simply be discouraged, but should rather be transformed into regular work. The study on undeclared work for Randstad – and conducted by the University of Sheffield and Regioplan – shows that in advanced economies the size of the undeclared economy varies widely, from under 10 per cent of GDP in countries such as the US, the UK, Japan and the Netherlands to more than 25 per cent of GDP in parts of southern and eastern Europe.

The study also reveals that countries with a smaller undeclared economy are those in which it is easier for companies to resort to temporary employment opportunities to meet labour demands and in which, at the same time, there is greater intervention (in the form of labour market policies that protect and support vulnerable groups of workers). Its finding is that by creating the right business environment for temporary employment and temporary work agencies, these relatively successful economies reduce the supply and demand of undeclared work by providing both workers and employers with better alternatives.

The report therefore advocates the use of active labour market policies, with a move away from unjustified restrictions on temporary work being lifted and relevant interventions stepped up. Governments, it concludes, need to create a mature system of social protection that not only supports workers who are ill or temporarily out of work, but also encourages an accessible, well-regulated market for temporary employment and temporary employment agencies.

In order for businesses, and indeed economies, to remain innovative and competitive in today’s environment, it shows that flexibility – and therefore flexible labour – will be imperative. The debate, therefore, should not be about whether we want to allow flexible labour and temporary work. Instead, there is a need for a debate on how best flexible labour and temporary work can be regulated to create a win-win situation for both businesses and workers.

Flexibility@work 2014: bringing the undeclared economy out of the shadows: the role of temporary work agencies (Flexibility@work2014) is released on 1 April 2014.

 

Randstad specialises in solutions in the provision of flexible labour and is one of the leading HR services providers in the world with top three positions in Argentina, Belgium & Luxembourg, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the United States, as well as major positions in Australia and Japan. In 2013, Randstad generated revenue of €16.6billion and had approximately 28,000 corporate employees and around 4,600 offices in 39 countries. On average, Randstad employs 567,700 candidates per day and places over 85,000 candidates in permanent positions.