The Recent Development and Impact of Populism on European Labour Law


Welcome to an Open Symposium hosted by Department of Business Law at Lund University School of Economics and Management (LUSEM). The symposium is given on site and online.

The symposium will focus on impact of populism on European labour law Photo: iStock

Political calls in terms of anti-globalisation, anti-elites, anti-EU, anti-migration, differentiation between “us and them”, and sometimes a general retrospective ambition to go back to a “better past” are heard across Europe.

One of the more challenging developments of contemporary Europe is the recent rise of populism across the continent. This symposium offers a venue to elucidate the impact, actual or potential, of populist movements with a focus on labour law including labour related social policies. The key note speakers provide insights from different Member States of the European Union, such as Hungary Poland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. 

Labour market regulations usually affect very broad groups in the society and are of significant importance for the development of companies and societies. Some countries, such as the Scandinavian are more dependent on the collective labour law and industrial relations, while detailed legislation is more commonly applied in other countries. The impact of political populism can be either accelerated or held back by the way the labour market is organised and regulated. 

Look into the program in the flippable file:

13.30 Session 1

Welcome and introduction to the Symposium

Jörgen Hettne, Professor in Business Law, LUSEM, director of Lund University Centre for European Studies

Representatives from LUSEM/Lund University

The Rise of Populism and its impact on Labour Law, Social law and Social Policy – concepts and definitions

Piotr Grzebyk, Vice Dean, Faculty of Law and Admin, University of Warsaw

14.00 Session 2

Populist Reforms in Hungary and Poland: Same Song, different melodies

Łukasz Pisarczyk, Associate Professor, University of Silesia, Katowice and University of Zielona Gora

The Impact of Populism on Scandinavian Labour Law. The Cases of Norway and Sweden

Alexander Sønderland Skjønberg, Associate Professor, Norwegian Business School BI, Oslo
Andreas Inghammar, Associate Professor in Business Law, LUSEM

Discussion, comments 

External commentator: Mette Søsted Hemme, Adjunkt, Ph.D. Juridisk Institut, Aarhus BBS, University of Aarhus

15.30 Coffee 

16.00 Session 3

Populism and Social Law: The Case of Southern Europe

Effrosyni Bakirtzi, Legal researcher at the Goethe University, Frankfurt
Emanuele Menegatti, Professor, University of Bologna
Maria Salas Porras, Associate Professor, University of Malaga

Discussion, comments

Andrea Iossa, Senior Lecturer, Kristianstad University College, Sweden 

16.45 Session 4

The recent development, the future development – differences and patterns in the European Union understanding of populism and labour market regulation

Participants from the different sessions

17.30 Concluding remarks

Moa Berglöf, editorial writer, author, Sydsvenska Dagbladet
Andreas Inghammar, Associate Professor in Business Law, LUSEM

While modern forms of populism have emerged as a key element of European (and global) political arena over the past decades, the impact on legislation and jurisprudence has been less obvious, until recently. The examples from primarily Hungary and Poland are plenty and the policies introduced under Orbán’s Fidesz and the Polish “Law and Order Party” (PiS) can many times be understood as more or less explicitly populist, with a rhetoric of anti-EU, anti-elites, anti-globalism and priority to traditional values of core voters or workers, but also with the well-known statutes lower employment protection for certain civil servants, de facto with an aim to replace core judicial staff and gather power in the hands of the Government.

Scandinavian labour law has, so far, seen less impact of populist political policies. A conclusion is that extraordinarily strong industrial relations models, with autonomous and potent trade unions and employer federations, constitutes a balancing power to the political arena, and that the collective laissez-faire doctrine of remains the decisive force on the labour market. The labour law examples yet attribute to populism in Norway and Sweden are mainly related to labour migration and discourses on anti-elites, anti-globalism and, indeed, anti-EU, but less in explicit labour market regulation.

The Southern European examples are often related to the societal effects of the financial crisis of 2008-2010 and the following Euro-crisis and austerity measures imposed on the labour markets in these countries. Anti-elite and anti-EU policies and rhetoric have opened the door to populist reforms, many times monitoring the backdrop of “ordinary workers” in relation to migrants or external people.

Even though there are many similar developments in all these different Member States, there are also significant differences. Since the organisation of the labour market affects the society to its core – just reflect on the very recent outbursts and strikes against the French pension reform in 2023 – the expansion of populist impact on labour law and social law related to the labour market, will be crucial for the establishment or continuation of a prosperous EU based on solidarity between countries, social classes, minorities and other groups.

The Symposium elaborates and analyses this core aspect of contemporary Europe.

The symposium is organised by Department of Business Law, funding provided by Lund University Centre for European Studies (CFE).

21 November 2023


Holger Crafoords Ekonomicentrum EC3
Tycho Brahes väg 1
223 63 Lund


Registration closed.


Pernilla Håkansson