(2013) Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press
Why do governments sometimes negotiate with trade unions and employers about labour market and welfare state reforms, while at other times they do not? Does European integration undermine these patterns of “social concertation”? Social Concertation in Times of Austerity investigates the political underpinnings of social concertation with a focus on the regulation of labour mobility and unemployment protection in Austria and Switzerland, as well as empirical examples from many other European countries. It shows that the involvement of trade unions and employers in policymaking is a strategy of compromise-building used by governments to insulate policies from electoral dynamics when they are faced with partisan divisions, or to pre-empt mass protest when unpopular reforms are likely to have risky electoral consequences.
Presentation and reviews
“Purely as a matter of social science craftmanship, this book is a model of clear conceptualization, knowledge of the previous literature, elaboration of explicit (even “rival”) working hypotheses, extensive data-collection from a variety of sources and reasonable inferences about causality. For specialists in the field of social concertation or neo-corporatism, it will be a seminal up-dating of the topic that is not likely to be surpassed for some time. For the novice political scientist or sociologist, I cannot think of a monograph that better demonstrates how to take a complex and controversial subject matter and turn it into a comprehensible and convincing piece of research” Philippe C. Schmitter, European University Institute, Review in Swiss Political Science Review.
“Afonso’s interesting comparison of labor mobility (an EU issue) and unemployment policy (a domestic issue) sheds light on why governments sometimes fall back on corporatist institutions, even in the current economic climate. And that reason is, in a word, political: because governments need the cover of such bargaining when they face electoral risks.” Prof. Pepper Culpepper, European University Institute, Florence
“Not so long ago social concertation arrangements were considered an industrial relations phenomenon which was functionally linked either to the institutional endowment of particular countries or to the problem load they faced. Through an analysis of labor market reforms in Austria and Switzerland, Afonso’s book shows that social concertation is an eminently political phenomenon. In so doing this interesting book contributes to move comparative political economy research away from rationalistic accounts of optimal designs and to bring it closer to an historically-contingent and actor-centered reconstruction of institutional trajectories.” Prof. Lucio Baccaro, University of Geneva
“This book provides highly interesting insights into the less well-known institutions and procedures of decision-making and policy formulation and their potential impact on policy outcomes and implementation via social concertation. It should stimulate research and debate on the potential for improved social dialogue in the context of the prevalent austerity environment for developing acceptable reforms that could result in balanced social and economic policies” Hedva Sarfati, former ILO Director, Industrial Relations Department, in Transfer.