Edited by Robin Hickman, Beatriz Mella Lira, Moshe Givoni and Karst Geurs
Institutions, Labour and Industrial Relations
Edited by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead
How People Who ‘Give’ Make Better Communities
Causes, Consequences and Remedies
Ive Marx and Lien Van Cant
Belgium’s social concertation model is extraordinarily resilient. Social dialogue is institutionally firmly embedded and the social partners continue to wield significant influence in shaping social and economic policy. Belgium is also among the few rich countries not to have seen growing income inequalities. Belgium maintains just about the most equal wage distribution in the capitalist world – including one of the smallest gender pay gaps – and there is little evidence of precarisation of work. The key argument of this chapter is that robust social dialogue has helped to contain inequality. The Belgian experience thus provides a powerful antidote to views that growing inequalities are inevitable. However, Belgium’s labour market is not as inclusive as we would wish and this, too, has to be seen, at least in part, in the context of the institutional rigidities and insider biases inherent in an extensive social concertation model such as Belgium’s.
Once considered an exception among the post-socialist countries owing to its inclusive industrial relations system and the role of social dialogue, the conditions for the social compromise in Slovenia have eroded significantly since mid-2000s. The pressures intensified in the post-2008 period when social dialogue at the national level virtually collapsed, the gap in working conditions and wages between sectors of the economy widened, while precarisation and increased unemployment seriously undermined the position of trade unions at the company level. In cases when collective bargaining was not mere ‘concession bargaining’ it often resulted in reduction of various forms of inequality but, with regard to weaker unions and non-unionised segments of the labour force, union actions at the national level proved crucial for imposing certain minimum standards. On the rare occurrences when meaningful social dialogue at the national level did take place, the results were more pronounced on the flexibility rather than the security side.
Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead and Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez
This first chapter, as an introduction to the whole book, summarises how growing inequality in Europe may have emerged from mechanisms in the world of work, with a particular focus on the possible role of social dialogue and the social partners – and more generally industrial relations – in reducing inequalities. The chapter first presents some major lessons from the national chapters and summarises their contributions to the existing research: How did national industrial relations systems address inequalities over time, and what have been their effects on various sources of inequality? This introduction also reviews some concrete outcomes of collective bargaining at national, sectoral and firm level that may have helped to reduce inequalities. It extends for this purpose the number of countries (beyond those covered by national chapters) in order to provide the most extensive overview of such outcomes. Third, this introduction complements the national stories with a comparative statistical analysis from the European Structure of Earnings Survey (SES, Eurostat) to more accurately identify specific effects of collective pay agreements on pay inequality, working time distribution and work contracts. Finally, this leads us to a number of policy considerations, which are presented briefly in the closing section and further developed in the national chapters.