Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Development in the Regulation of Wages and Working Conditions: The Employee Perspective

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Development in the Regulation of Wages and Working Conditions: The Employee Perspective

Article excerpt

Danish Labor Market Regulation: Something Particular and Particularly Threatened?

In Denmark-as in the other Nordic countries-there are lengthy traditions for collective regulations covering practically the entire labor market. Collective agreements define collective rights as opposed to individual rights, as in most other European and Anglo-American systems. Collective awareness and collective regulations count where collective agreement coverage exists. But are we approaching the end of the era of collective regulation? This would suggest many discussions, individualization theses (Beck et al., 1994; Atkinson, 2007; Berger & Hitzler, 2010), new theoretical lenses like employment relations (Lewis et al., 2003, Kaufmann, 2004; Wilkinson et al., 2014), or theories with point of departure in contemporary comparative political economy (Gautié & Schmitt, 2010; Stone & Arthurs, 2013; Streeck, 2014). However, the Nordic countries are, on the other hand, often described as an outlier by displaying a high degree of institutional stability in the changing world of work in spite of liberalization-and deregulation processes caused by an increasing international competition, globalization, and Europeanization (Thelen, 2009, 2014; Refslund & Sorensen, 2016).

The institutional stability is often linked to a high degree of collective bargaining and collective representativity among both employers (in employer associations) and employee. Especially strong labor movements and social democratic parties and crossclass cooperation have traditionally been identified as important factors in this process (Korpi, 1989). This mirrors a close connection between the labor market system and the welfare system. Strategic choice theories often miss this point (Kochan et al., 1984; Poole, 1986; Sisson, 1987). Collective bargaining coverage and employee perception and attitudes toward collective institutions are good indicators on institutional stability or transformation. Hence, in this article, we investigate developments in the regulation of wages and working conditions seen from an employee perspective. The research questions guiding our investigation are:

* How has the collective bargaining coverage developed from 2002 to 2014 seen in relation to other forms of regulation?

* How do employees perceive labor market regulation? Is support for collective agreements still to be found or do employees now prefer other forms of regulation on the labor market?

The data used are based on two large Danish cross-sectional studies from 2002 and 2014 combined into a longitudinal design. The survey data allow us to survey the development in the collective bargaining coverage and at the same time investigate employee's preferences and attitudes toward different forms of labor market regulation. The article begins with methodological considerations linked to the study of labor market regulation from a macro-perspective, including the presentation of the data material upon which the analysis in hand is based. This is followed by an expanded theoretical explanation of the regulatory forms existing in the Danish labor market and the forces driving the regulation of wages and working conditions. The empirical analysis is then presented on the background of survey data. The article is rounded off with some concluding remarks by returning to the two research questions presented above.

How is Labor Market Regulation to be Investigated Methodologically?

The study of labor market regulation from a macro-perspective involves burdensome amounts of data, first and foremost because there are no central registers covering the collective bargaining agreements. Employer associations in Denmark do have statistics regarding their own members, but are left to speculate when it comes to unorganized employers (DA, 2015). One is left to try to get a lay of the land via representative survey or cross-sectional data (Scheuer, 1996, 1997). …

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