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"Social Pacts in Western Europe: The Roles of European Integration and Electoral Competition"

Hamann, Kerstin, and Kelly, John. (2007) "Social Pacts in Western Europe: The Roles of European Integration and Electoral Competition". In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)

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    [From the introduction]. Social pacts – national-level agreements between governments, labor unions and sometimes employer organizations – began to emerge in many Western European countries in the 1980s. Although on the surface, these agreements seemed to bear some resemblance to the neo-corporatist arrangements of the 1970s, several features made them notable and distinct. First, they were signed in countries that did not conform to the characteristics usually identified with neo-corporatism, such as the presence of leftist governments, and strong and centralized social partners. Second, the pacts varied significantly in their contents, including issues as diverse as wage levels, work time, labor market or industrial relations reform, welfare reform, and training. In this paper, we aim to explain the emergence of social pacts in West European countries. We are particularly interested in explaining the variation of the existence of pacts both across and within countries. That is, why do some countries feature a long list of social pacts, while others have few or none? And second, why do some governments pursue social pacts as their preferred way to change policies during certain time periods, but choose the legislative route at other times? In exploring these questions, we diverge from the prevalent explanation centered on economic pressures and instead highlight electoral dynamics. We argue that social pacts will be attractive when party leaders perceive them to be helpful in reducing the potential electoral costs of economic adjustment and wage restraint policies. Alternatively, parties may forgo negotiations with social partners and seek to impose such policies unilaterally if they believe that approach will yield electoral gain or minimize electoral costs. The paper proceeds as follows: The first section will present a brief overview of the dominant explanations of social pacts, focusing on economic pressures and institutions. The second part will ground our argument in existing theoretical and empirical work on parties, governments, and voting behavior. The third section discusses some initial results based on a 16-country comparison of social pacts. Although these results are preliminary and tentative, they indicate the directions our future research will take. The final section summarizes our findings and suggests directions for further research.

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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > social policy > general
    Other > integration theory (see also researching and writing the EU in this section)
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > political parties
    Other > researching and writing the EU (see also integration theory in this section)
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > economic and financial affairs > business/private economic activity
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2007 (10th), May 17-19, 2007
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 09 May 2008
    Page Range: p. 52
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:50

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