Regulatory Social Policy: The Politics of Job Security Regulations
Version of Record online: 5 SEP 2011
© 2011 Swiss Political Science Association
Swiss Political Science Review
Volume 17, Issue 3, pages 365–367, September 2011
How to Cite
Nelson, M. (2011), Regulatory Social Policy: The Politics of Job Security Regulations. Swiss Political Science Review, 17: 365–367. doi: 10.1111/j.1662-6370.2011.02024.x
- Issue online: 5 SEP 2011
- Version of Record online: 5 SEP 2011
Regulatory Social Policy: The Politics of Job Security Regulations Bern : Haupt Verlag ( 2009 ), 285 p., ISBN 978-3-258-07477-1
Les nouveaux défis de l’Etat social / Neue Herausforderungen für den Sozialstaat and ( eds ) Bern : Haupt Verlag ( 2008 ), 252 p., ISBN 978-3-258-07324-8
Both Regulatory Social Policy: The Politics of Job Security Regulations and Les nouveaux défis de l’Etat social /Neue Herausforderungen für den Sozialstaat explore the relationship between economic changes and the welfare state, addressing various questions: How does economic change call for new types of social policy? How does economic change challenge the sustainability or effectiveness of existing social policies? How do one’s answers to these questions depend on beliefs about how the market functions? How can policy developments be explained? In Regulating Social Policy, Emmenegger begins from the finding that employment protection legislation (EPL) increases unemployment by creating labor market rigidities. The analysis then examines (1) preferences over job security in the more recent period using logistic regression as well as (2) the determinants of EPL from a more historical perspective using qualitative comparative analysis. The results indicate that individuals on a labor contract desire more job security and that strong EPL results from various configurations of state-society traditions, non-market coordination, and political representation of religious groups. Together, these insights suggest that, while religious values and traditions influenced policy creation, present-day supporters include workers in more replaceable positions rather than those with stronger religious convictions. Moreover, the support for the replaceability thesis and the lack of strong results for the insider-outsider theory underscore the need to consider multiple facets of job security besides the strength of EPL and the permanence of one’s contract; job security also reflects the value of one’s skill set to the firm.
The fourteen contributions to Les nouveaux défis all begin from the premise that the welfare state faces substantial challenges in the current period due to budgetary pressures and demographic change. The social investment strategy is forwarded as the appropriate solution and the chapters either explicitly or implicitly adopt this approach. In this way of thinking, labor market participation protects against many current social ills, including social exclusion, poverty, weak economic growth, and the formation of a future workforce. The introductory chapter by Bonoli lays out the social investment perspective theoretically before discussing specific policy aims including promoting labor market participation not least through the tax structure, gender equality, work-family reconciliation, investment in young children, and the integration of immigrants. The final chapter by Esping-Andersen finishes off the volume by reiterating many of these goals and underscoring the need to promote children’s development and the feminization of the male life cycle.
The remaining chapters touch on these aforementioned policy aims, at times suggesting reforms necessary to align existing policies with these aims or analyzing the political feasibility of reforms. (1) Various chapters look into the relationship between the fiscal costs of the welfare state and social effects such as reducing poverty and inequality. Dafflon disaggregates the fiscal basis of different social policies, therefore providing insight into the budgetary and redistributive effects of various social policies on an aggregate level although estimating the micro effects is, as pointed out by the author, not possible. Knöpfel examines social assistance in Switzerland to assess various aspects, from its role in reducing poverty and promoting labor market integration to the effects on work incentives. Soguel and Huguenin estimate the efficiency of social centers in the canton of Vaud. (2) Another theme includes the relationship between social policy and work throughout the life cycle. Hinrichs foresees the long-term effects of current trends in atypical work, arguing that poverty among the elderly will rise unless eligibility rules regarding pension policies are adapted. Flückiger and Kempeneers consider the role of social policy in facilitating integration in the labor market at different ages and Bertozzi focuses more specifically on the transition from working life to retirement. Cattacin and Chimienti analyze migration into Switzerland, the character and reasons for these patterns, and the consequences for the labor market participation of different migrant groups. (3) The promotion of families via the welfare state is another focus of the volume. Meier-Schatz outlines the many contributions of families to society in order to illuminate the point that families need to receive more state support. Wanner continues on this point by contending that the state should enable parents to afford to have the number of children that they wish to have. Ballmer-Cao makes the broader point that promoting families means adjusting the gender relations inherent in traditional social policy structures. (4) Finally, two chapters turn to the political feasibility of adjusting social policy to the new policy aims identified by Bonoli and Esping-Andersen. Häusermann identifies modernizing reforms in the areas of unemployment insurance, pensions, and family policy and links reform capacity to Swiss consensus-orientated institutions. Knoepfel examines the growing role of market forces in the administration of social policy over time.
The two studies under examination here differ in important ways. Whereas Regulatory Social Policy provides a rich analysis of one particular policy area, Les Nouveaux Défis discusses many policy areas (which do not include in fact EPL). Also, the former focuses on a policy typically enjoyed by ‘insiders’ whereas the latter is more concerned with ‘outsiders’.
Perhaps because of their differences, seen together they provoke many questions and areas for future research. The entire issue about job security raised by Emmenegger is highly relevant in an era of economic insecurity. Formal EPL has been cut down tremendously in the past few decades. Regulatory Social Policy is therefore quite timely. At the same time, Emmenegger largely proceeds without unpacking the meaning of job security in today’s context, interpreting the survey questions about job security as preferences for EPL without discussing the independent effects of existing levels of EPL on preferences as well as alternative interpretations of the dependent variable.
Les Nouveaux Défis starts from the position that the traditional welfare state is ill-equipped to cope with existing financial and demographic changes. Although not discussed, EPL is arguably a feature of the traditional welfare state that is also out-dated. In many discussions of welfare state change, scholars note that the welfare state today should secure employability but not a particular employment position. This goes against the entire principle of EPL. In this way, even if many people prioritize job security when seeking a new job, it remains a salient question whether they interpret job security as strong EPL in a context when most countries have relaxed their EPL to a large extent. At this juncture, Les Nouveaux Défis offers up the core proposal of the social investment perspective as a central alternative to EPL, namely to invest in individuals’ capacity to find and retain employment.
At the same time, Les Nouveaux Défis could gain something from the theoretical attention in Regulatory Social Policy to the differential effects of a particular policy (here EPL) on various constituencies. Some chapters do consider distributive consequences of particular policies but overall the social investment perspective is discussed as a win-win approach to resolving new socio-economic pressures. Greater insight into those who may be negatively affected by this perspective would be helpful in understanding the political viability of reform agendas.
All in all, Regulatory Social Policy and Les Nouveaux Défis offer theoretically and empirically rigorous contributions and are highly recommended for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of the welfare state.