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The Privatization of Welfare States: Industrial Relations as a Source of Social Benefits

Applicant Trampusch Christine
Number 119898
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Politikwissenschaft Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.09.2008 - 30.09.2010
Approved amount 249'416.00
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Keywords (10)

industrial relations; trade unions; welfare state; private social benefits; Comparative Case Studies; Historical Institutionalism; Switzerland; the Netherlands; Denmark; Sweden

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
This project examines the provision of social benefits by collective agreements reached between employers’ associations and trade unions. Although collectively negotiated benefits influence present trajectories of welfare state restructuring, neither the research on the public-private mix nor the research on the contemporary restructuring of welfare states consider collective agreements on social benefits. Against this background the project systematically compares countries in which collectively negotiated benefits have traditionally played a role in the provision of welfare and are still important. The dependent variables are systems of collectively negotiated benefits. Theoretically and analytically, the project draws on a historical-institutionalist account. It views the use of collectively negotiated benefits as a result of the interplay between remote and proximate conditions, hence, between institutional conditions and social interactions between trade unions, employers and the state which are channeled by these institutional conditions. As regards collective agreements on social security comparative and comprehensive data are not yet available an explorative and qualitative approach is chosen.

The research design consists of two steps. In the first step, the project gathers data on collectively negotiated benefits and their institutional context. Here, the aim is to create a publicly available database on the structural characteristics, governance modes and institutional conditions of collectively negotiated benefits. This database can also be used for further comparative studies. In the second step, founded on the database as well as on additional qualitative research, comparative case studies on four countries, namely Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden will follow. This part of the project adopts a case-oriented small-N comparison. This procedure allows us to analyze the institutional conditions within which collective agreements on social benefits evolve and develop and to study the role these collectively negotiated benefits play in contemporary welfare state restructuring, in terms of politics as well as in terms of outcomes.

By incorporating Switzerland in the case studies, the project will contribute to basic research on the development and the contemporary restructuring of the Swiss welfare state. In light of the challenges to welfare states which result from fiscal pressures and structural changes in society and economy, a better understanding of the preconditions of a smooth, redistributive and solidaristic restructuring of welfare states is a crucial task, not only in theoretical but also in practical terms.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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