As will become evident from the subsequent national chapters, the opacity, vagueness and rhetorical style of the National Action Plans (NAPs) presents a challenge to analysis, and requires a different methodological approach from that involved in assessing the impact of, say, directives. This is, in part, due to the fact that Member States' responses to the Employment Guidelines generally take the form of administrative rather than legislative measures, which are likely to be less ‘visible’.
A key question which will be addressed in this chapter is, therefore, how one can measure Member States' ‘compliance’ with the soft law requirements of the Employment Strategy. This will involve an assessment of the legal significance of the National Action Plans, how they have matured over time, and examples of Member States' responses to their obligations as evidenced in their NAPs published since 1998.
Furthermore, in the context of an investigation of the regulation of part-time work, it is also useful to explore the differing ways in which Member States have responded to the part-time work aspects of the Employment Strategy, a Strategy within which part-time work is promoted, to a great extent, as a means of increasing the level of employment and improving competitiveness and productivity.
The (legal) status of the Employment Guidelines and the National Action Plans
According to Art. 128(3) EC, each Member State must provide the Council and the Commission with an annual report on the principal measures taken to implement its employment policy in the light of the Employment Guidelines.