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Social Concertation in Times of Austerity

Social Concertation in Times of Austerity: European Integration and the Politics of Labour Market Reforms in Austria and Switzerland

Alexandre Afonso
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Social Concertation in Times of Austerity
    Book Description:

    Why do governments still negotiate with trade unions and employers in the design of labour market and welfare reforms despite the steady decline of trade union membership almost everywhere in Europe? Social Concertation in Times of Austerity investigates the political underpinnings of social concertation in this new context with a focus on the regulation of labour mobility and unemployment protection in Austria and Switzerland. It shows that the involvement of organised interests in policymaking is a strategy of compromise-building used by governments when they are faced with party-political divisions, or when unpopular reforms are likely to have risky electoral consequences. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1299-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 9-12)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 13-14)
  6. 1 The Strange Survival of Social Concertation in Times of Austerity
    (pp. 15-24)

    In December 2008, when the president of the trade union confederation ÖGB, Rudolf Hundstorfer, became the new Austrian minister for social affairs, the magazineProfilpresented his career move as a “deliberate downgrade”. In Austria, the magazine argued, the head of a social partner organisation ranked higher than a minister (Profil 2009). Along similar lines, the general secretary of the Dutch trade union confederation FNV, Agnes Jongerius, was described inde Volkskrantas the “real” minister for social affairs of the Netherlands. In the words of the leader of the liberal party VVD Mark Rutte, who would later become Prime...

  7. 2 Social Concertation as a Political Strategy
    (pp. 25-52)

    In the 1960s, the Norwegian political scientist Stein Rokkan described the functioning of the political system in his country in a manner that stood in sharp contrast with textbook descriptions of modern democracies at the time. In Norway, Rokkan argued, the most important decisions in economic policy were not taken in parliament or within political parties but at bargaining tables gathering the government, trade union leaders, farmers, fishermen, smallholders and business organisations. In these bargaining rounds which “had come to mean more in the lives of rank-and-file citizens than formal elections”, decisions were not taken by majority rule but through...

  8. 3 European Integration, Domestic Politics and Social Concertation
    (pp. 53-74)

    This chapter introduces an international dimension to the theoretical framework. I focus on European integration and its domestic politicisation as challenging factors for social concertation, and propose a set of heuristic hypotheses to explore the impact of European integration on social concertation. European integration has been seen as a major influence on concertation, yet the causal mechanisms whereby this influence takes place have stayed relatively unclear. Whereas existing scholarship has tended to posit a somewhat mechanistic relationship between them, either in the direction of a weakening or of a strengthening, this chapter explores the complex mechanisms whereby domestic politics mediates...

  9. 4 Methods and Cases
    (pp. 75-90)

    The methods researchers use in the social sciences should be determined by the empirical problems they seek to explain, rather than the other way around: methodology should be aligned with ontology (Hall 2003). Starting from this, measuring and explaining social concertation implies a number of methodological pitfalls. First, as highlighted by the quote above, compromises between social partners are often struck in closed settings. In day-to-day procedures of social concertation about public policies, opacity is often a constant, and is even sometimes a pre-condition for compromises to emerge, because employers and trade union elites may have an interest in concealing...

  10. 5 The Context of Social Concertation in Switzerland and Austria
    (pp. 91-110)

    Since World War II, Austria and Switzerland have commonly been described as ideal types of political stability, successful political integration and economic prosperity. Pope Paul VI for instance famously called Austria the “Island of the Blessed” in 1971 to emphasise the absence of visible conflicts in this country as compared to the social unrest that characterised other parts of Europe at the time. Similarly, Denis de Rougemont (1965) and André Siegfried (1948) titled their books on Switzerland respectively “The History of a Happy People” (La Suisse ou l’Histoire d’un Peuple Heureux) and “The Poster Child of Democracy” (La Suisse, Démocratie-Témoin)....

  11. 6 Social Concertation and Cross-Border Labour Mobility
    (pp. 111-154)

    The renovation of a school in a Swedish town in 2004 was the starting point of vivid debates about how labour mobility could challenge the very underpinnings of social concertation in the European Union. In 2003, a Latvian company calledLaval un Partneriwon a contract to refurbish a school in the town of Vaxholm, near Stockholm. Right after Sweden opened its labour market to workers from the new member states of the European Union, Laval “posted” 35 Latvian workers who remained effectively employed in Latvia to carry out the work. The Swedish Building Workers’ UnionByggnadsasked the company...

  12. 7 Social Concertation and Unemployment Policy Reforms
    (pp. 155-194)

    Unemployment policy has historically been a prominent domain of cooperation between governments, trade unions and employers. In contrast to cross-border labour mobility, policy changes in this domain are generally more triggered by domestic or structural developments than by supranational market integration, and lines of cleavages between political actors may be different. This chapter presents patterns of domestic policy concertation in unemployment policy in Austria and Switzerland, and shows how the trajectory of corporatist concertation has diverged between these two countries in this field. Whereas corporatist concertation in Austria has followed a cyclical pattern influenced by the political interests of the...

  13. 8 Synthesis and Comparative Outlook
    (pp. 195-214)

    How can my empirical findings be interpreted? More precisely, how do the causal mechanisms hypothesised in the theoretical part operate in the cases analysed in the empirical part? And what do the cases analysed teach us about social concertation in Europe? First, this chapter sums up the results and assesses the explanatory power of three variables put forward in the hypotheses: European integration, party coalitions and politicisation. Then, it assesses the applicability of the theoretical insights in other cases with a very brief comparative glance at other traditionally corporatist countries (Sweden and the Netherlands), bigger states (Spain, Italy, France and...

  14. List of Interviews
    (pp. 215-216)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 217-222)
  16. References
    (pp. 223-252)
  17. Index
    (pp. 253-258)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-260)