Structural stress or deliberate decision? Government partisanship and the disempowerment of unions in Denmark

Authors

  • Michael Baggesen Klitgaard,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark
    • Address for correspondence: Michael Baggesen Klitgaard, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK 5230 Odense M, Denmark. E-mail: mbk@sam.sdu.dk

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  • Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard

    1. Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark
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Abstract

The role of government partisanship in the era of retrenchment is debated. It is argued in this article that partisanship matters for only some aspects of policy. Irrespective of ideological bending, governments accommodate structural pressure as well as short-term electoral interests to keep the economy on track and implement austerity measures in labour market policy that, in effect, reduce union resources and capacity to mobilise. But only governments of the right exploit structural stress to pursue long-term interest in curbing the institutional privileges of unions. Aligning short- and long-term interests is easier for social democratic governments during economic expansion, whereas governments of the right have an easier time aligning interests in periods of structural pressure. By analysing a sample of Danish labour market reforms, this article shows that today social democratic governments still defend the institutional privileges of unions and discusses the comparative significance of the Danish case.

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