Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The political economy of work security and flexibility

The political economy of work security and flexibility: Italy in comparative perspective

Fabio Berton
Matteo Richiardi
Stefano Sacchi
Copyright Date: 2012
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The political economy of work security and flexibility
    Book Description:

    The economic crisis has revealed the dark side of deregulation in the labour market: rising unemployment, limited access to social security and, due to low wages, no savings to count upon in bad times. This book casts light on the empirical relationship between labour market deregulation through non-standard contracts and the three main dimensions of worker security: employment, income and social security. Focusing on individual work histories, it looks at how labour market dynamics interact with the social protection system in bringing about inequality and insecurity. In this context Italy is put forward as the epitome of flexibility through non-standard work and compared with three similar countries: Germany, Spain and Japan. Results show that when flexibility is carried out as a mere cost-reduction device and social security only relies on insurance principles, deregulation leads to insecurity. 'The political economy of work security and flexibility' is essential reading for academics, students, practitioners and policy makers interested in the outcomes of labour market developments in advanced economies over the past twenty years.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-908-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. iv-v)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
    F.B., M.R. and S.S.
  5. Notes on the authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  6. ONE Worker security and the spread of non-standard work
    (pp. 1-14)

    Building on the good economic performance of the US under Ronald Reagan and of the UK under Margaret Thatcher, at the beginning of the 1990s the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recommended that countries experiencing high and increasing unemployment rates should deregulate their labour markets in order to achieve a higher degree of flexibility. In particular, this was the prescription issued to heal ‘inflexible Europe’, as the OECD Jobs Study (1994) called it, from its low growth and high unemployment disease, Eurosclerosis. Indeed, at the zenith of the industrial age, just before the first oil shock in the...

  7. TWO Flexibility and security in contemporary labour markets
    (pp. 15-32)

    In the last few years, flexibility and security have become crucial issues in the employment policies of advanced political economies. This is clearly shown by the widespread use, within the European debate on the topic, of the concept of ‘flexicurity’, defined as an ‘integrated strategy for simultaneously enhancing flexibility and security in the labour market’ (European Commission,2007, p 5).¹

    Much emphasis has been put by international and supranational organisations on the idea of a virtuous combination between flexibility and security. In particular, new labour policy trends promoted by the OECD seem now in tune with positions expressed by the European...

  8. THREE Labour policy developments in Italy in comparative perspective
    (pp. 33-60)

    The regulation of labour in contemporary Italy has rested, since the post-war period, on a complex and variegated set of laws and collective agreements that have stacked up in time, making any attempt at systematisation extremely difficult. In this chapter, we will try to outline their evolution, following the development of labour flexibility policies, the regulations that have broadened the range of non-standard contracts. As a way of portraying Italy’s regulation on a comparative backcloth, labour market policy developments occurring in Germany, Spain and Japan over the past 20 years or so will also be analysed in some detail.


  9. FOUR Flexibility and employment security: an analysis of work careers
    (pp. 61-78)

    The first dimension that we will focus on is that ofemployment security,operationalised through employment continuity, that is, continuity in the condition of being employed, also with different jobs and different employers. Other conditions being equal, non-standard workers – those with fixed-term contracts in particular – run a higher risk of precariousness, vis-à-vis standard workers, if the highercontractdiscontinuity they are subject to, due to contract expiration, translates into higheremploymentdiscontinuity.

    Contract discontinuity and employment discontinuity are indeed not the same thing. First of all, the fact that a contract has an expiration date does not necessarily mean that the...

  10. FIVE Flexibility and wage dynamics
    (pp. 79-94)

    This chapter examines the wages of non-standard workers. It seeks to determine whether non-standard workers receive better pay than standard ones as compensation for their greater employment discontinuity (see Chapter 4). As we will see, the answer to this question is indubitably ‘no’: non-standard workers – in particular, apprentices and wage and salary independent contractors – have access to contracts with lower averagegrosspay as compared to standard workers, even after controlling for worker and job characteristics. In addition, further differentials emerge once the benefits paid by the employers are taken into account. In fact, contractual gross pay is only a...

  11. SIX Flexibility and social security
    (pp. 95-130)

    The aim of this chapter is to provide a comparative assessment of the actual opportunities given to non-standard workers to avail themselves of main income maintenance schemes. The main question is whether departures from standard labour relationships have consequences on the workers’ actual ability to attain security from social protection schemes. This concerns not only the fact of having formal rights to some forms of social protection, but also, once the rights are formally acknowledged, the conditions to access a given scheme and the actual amount of the benefit provided by the scheme in question.

    The chapter is organised as...

  12. SEVEN A monetary measure of worker (in)security
    (pp. 131-146)

    The key question of this volume is whether flexibility (of labour) leads to insecurity (of workers). We already argued in Chapter 2 that this is an empirical matter that cannot be solved a priori.¹

    Identifying – as is often the case in the debate – one or more specific contract types with precariousness implies, indeed, the following assumption: all and only the workers that are employed with those contracts are precarious. We strongly dislike this assumption. On the one hand, it seems to suggest that, in order to eradicate precariousness, it would be sufficient to eliminate the opportunity to use these types...

  13. EIGHT Conclusions
    (pp. 147-154)

    In this volume we have studied the issue of worker security comparing two specific groups of workers: those holding contracts considered standard during the golden age of industrial capitalism, that is, dependent full-time open-ended ones; and those working with one of the many arrangements that most OECD countries have introduced during the last decades in order to make their labour markets more ‘flexible’. Such contracts are, indeed, identified by their deviation from one or more of the four main features of a standard contract: undefined duration, full-time schedule, identity of the employer with the user of the worker’s services, and...

  14. APPENDIX A: The WHIP database
    (pp. 155-160)
  15. APPENDIX B: Main work contracts in italy
    (pp. 161-168)
  16. References
    (pp. 169-182)
  17. Index
    (pp. 183-190)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-191)