Non-Corporatist Social Bargaining for Welfare Retrenchment: Public Pension Reforms in Southern European Countries

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Turnbull Room (University of Glasgow)
Sung Ho Park , Dept. of International Relations, Yonsei University, Wonju Campus
Existing studies on welfare reforms in advanced European countries have found two stereotypical paths to welfare retrenchment: government unilateralism and corporatist social bargaining. In the former, governments have taken a top-down unilateral approach, pressing for retrenchment without serious concertation with those who will be adversely affected. In the latter, however, governments have adopted a more consensual approach by engaging in institutionalized concertation with the stakeholders -- who are mostly represented by trade union organizations.

The article argues that there is another hybrid path to the retrenchment which combines certain features of unilateralism and social bargaining. In this path, governments seek for a kind of social bargaining with the core beneficiary groups and their representatives, but in a more fragile and conflict-ridden way than in the corporatist counterpart. Such a 'non-corporatist' social bargaining has been present in advanced European countries. However, existing studies have not paid due attention to it. The present study fills in this research gap by exploring a causal mechanism lying behind the under-researched reform path.

More specifically, the article argues that the 'non-corporatist' social bargaining occurs when weak governments promote benefit cuts that welfare insiders do not support. The hypothesis is examined against the recent cases of public pension reforms drawn from four Southern European countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. A total of 24 cases of pension cuts since the 1990s will be analyzed, relying on a combination of fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fs-QCA) and selective case narratives.

  • Park(CES 2017).pdf (168.2 kB)