The XIV European Regional Congress of the International Society for Labour and Social Security Law (ISLSSL) - The Lighthouse Function of Social Law


Dates and times: 

September 6, 2023 - 09:00 to September 8, 2023 - 18:00


University of Ghent
University of Ghent
9000 Ghent


In cooperation with BEGASOZ/ABETRASS and ISLSSL, the LIISA social law research unit of Ghent University organises the XIV the European congress of ISLSSL dedicated to the interaction between social law and other areas of law. Social law is not an isolated domain but rather interacts and exchanges with other fields, often even functioning as a guide or giving direction to those lost at sea. In other words: a lighthouse.

We would like to invite you to present your valuable research and a paper at the XIV European Regional Congress of the International Society for Labour and Social Security Law. This conference will shed light on a broad range of subjects, the key question being the existence of a connection between social law sensu stricto (labour law and social security law) and other areas of law.

In recent times, labour law and social security law have been subject to many reforms. Some even say that this area of law is in a crisis. To get an overall picture of the current evolutions in relation to other areas of law, LIISA | Lab for International & Interdisciplinary Social Affairs dedicates a three-day congress to this theme. Can we, by looking at these evolutions, draw certain conclusions at an innovative scientific level? For instance, what is the role of basic legal principles in those interactions? Are there any recurring similar basic principles or legal mechanisms?

We invite you to embark on our journey to discover, together, how social law constitutes a lighthouse to other areas of law. We encourage proposals that address topical and challenging issues around four broad topics. We in particular encourage an inter- and multidisciplinary approach. The conference aims to give young researchers the opportunity to exchange their ideas. In order to enable a global discussion, papers can be presented in four languages: English, French, German or Spanish.

The four points of our compass

The programme of the Lighthouse Function of Social Law Congress will be oriented towards four broad topics. These constitute the four points of our compass:

1) Basic and fundamental principles in European social law

What constitutes the substructure of our social system? Which basic principles give shape to it? The development of social fundamental rights in several international and regional instruments (e.g. Council of Europe) and of the basic principles within the European Pillar of Social Rights is an indication of the quest for basic principles but also of the undercurrent of tension between fundamental rights and economic needs. Does the protection of the employees play an equally fundamental role in this respect? Furthermore, different levels (EU, ECHR, UN, constitution…) give shape to this topic. What are the consequences of the adoption of such principles for the development of our social systems and for the concrete rights and obligations of all parties involved? Can we find common characteristics in our European systems? How do internal constitutional and national regulations interfere with the European dimension?

2) Enforcement in social law

Effective enforcement of labour and social security law entails numerous challenges and hurdles. How can the effectiveness of social law be strengthened? Whereas some push for an administrative law approach or a civil law way, others zealously defend a penal method. In addition, judicial supervision of labour law infringements obviously also remains an option. Furthermore, within the EU, the Court of Justice of the EU has elaborated some principles with a view to effective enforcement of European social law. Which role do all actors play in this regard? Various third actors such as social partners, NGOs, but also private players in security play an increasingly important role in enforcement. Could they facilitate or even take over the role of inspection services? In this respect, it is not without importance to note that soft law also progressively makes its entrance in social law. What is the legal value of open method coordination? What is its impact on enforcement?

3) The future in the light of the past

Our labour market is regularly affected by a crisis. The 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 crisis both entailed ad hoc or other measures to save the labour market and also our social system. Sometimes, measures are taken that seem to question the fundamental principles of our systems, thus rewriting our social system through measures concerning working time, work organisation, dismissal law, relaxing of the conditions to be entitled to benefits, a whole bunch of subsidies, increasing equalisation between the self-employed and employees, even more flexibility, etc. These changes sometimes constitute the forerunner of new measures. More often, however, in the hindsight they appear to have been ad hoc measures that are later reversed. Usually, crises are not exactly the best teacher when it comes to reforms. Nonetheless, these crises do reveal the limitations of our existing systems. Could we draw lessons from them to know what we should and should not do? Could we draw comparisons with steps undertaken in past crises? Until the nineteenth century, many people worked at home without any social security whatsoever. Is history repeating itself?

4) The impact of regionalisation

The division of powers between regional, national and European levels continues to present major challenges. The answers to the COVID-19 crisis constitute a prime example of this. Will we manage to react at the proper level? Is there such a proper level in the first place? Do regional organisations such as the Benelux, Nordic Countries, Council of Europe, OECD, EU, or other regional organsiations outside Europe take initiatives to safeguard their social models? The limited powers (?) of the EU when it comes to labour law, social security law, health law (including occupational health) have surely revealed within the EU that Member States often had directly opposing views, but also that the powers of various actors are sometimes difficult to reconcile. The increasing role of social compensation mechanisms (which do not fall within EU competence) presents numerous challenges. The role of national systems and national powers needs to be addressed in this context. At the same time, we are fighting at European level for the survival of our social model. Nothing could better illustrate this than Brexit as well as social clauses in international treaties. Who does what? Who is able to act?

Don't miss your chance to join us in Ghent on 6-8 September for the ISLSSL XIV European Regional Congress. Register now at and be a part of this highly interactive and informative experience in the beautiful city of Ghent. Registration deadline is Friday 11 August!

Registration: Aug 11, 2023
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