The Political Economy of Occupational Family Policies: Comparing Workplaces in Britain and Germany

Authors


  • Martin Seeleib-Kaiser is at the University of Oxford. Timo Fleckenstein is at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Abstract

With a shift in the political debate to more market-driven social policy approaches during the past decade, politicians in a number of European countries have argued that employers should take on greater responsibilities in the provision of social policy. But why should employers get involved? After reviewing the relevant literature on firm-level social policy, we analyse the conditions and causal pathways that lead to their provision. Our findings show that (i) the skill structure and level of the workforce are important conditions for firm-level engagement; (ii) employers have usually been the ‘protagonists’; (iii) the role of unions has been more limited — in Germany they can largely be characterized as ‘consenters’, whereas in Britain, their impact is negligible; (iv) in accordance with the specific systems of industrial relations, the design in Germany very much follows the concept of social partnership; in Britain the design is usually based on unilateral management decisions; and (v) based on these conditions and causal pathways, ‘enclave social policy’ is the likely result of the expansionary policy development, although in Germany, these policies have the potential of becoming an element of ‘industrial citizenship’.

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