Labour Market Regimes Under Threat? Sources of Continuity in Germany, Britain, and Sweden

Stewart Wood

in The New Politics of the Welfare State

Published in print April 2001 | ISBN: 9780198297567
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600104 | DOI:
Labour Market Regimes Under Threat? Sources of Continuity in Germany, Britain, and Sweden

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In this third of three chapters on the distinctive policy dynamics of particular areas of social provision, Wood looks at labour market regimes in Germany, Britain, and Sweden. The theoretical starting point of the chapter is an examination of path dependence, perhaps the most popular contemporary approach to explaining the persistence of institutions and policies over time. In principle, this offers an enticing explanation of the resilience of national policy trajectories, although the outcomes it explains have a tendency to be overdetermined, and not all mechanisms generating a bias towards the status quo are path‐dependent ones. The theoretical work of this chapter, therefore, lies in deriving alternative (though not mutually exclusive) micro‐level sources of policy continuity over time, and evaluating their relative contributions to the evolution of labour market policy in Germany, Britain, and Sweden. Divided into four substantive sections: Section 1 discusses the theory of path‐dependent institutional and policy trajectories in politics; Sect. 2 presents three distinct sources of policy continuity (employer‐centred, constitutional, and electoral) that are often bundled together as ‘lock‐in mechanisms’ in path‐dependent accounts; Sect. 3 sketches the changing context of labour market policy in Western Europe by looking at national responses to unemployment from 1980 onwards in each of the three country case studies, and providing accounts of labour market policies, employers’ preferences in relation to labour market policies, and constitutional factors and electoral constraints in relation to labour market reform; Sect. 4 is a conclusion and discusses the thesis offered by the chapter — that the trajectory of labour market policy can be accounted for by an employer‐centred theory of preferences.

Keywords: Britain; constitutional factors; electoral constraints; employer‐centred factors; employers’ preferences; Germany; institutional trajectories; labour market policy; labour market reform; labour market regimes; national policy trajectories; path dependence; policy continuity; policy dynamics; policy trajectories; social provision; Sweden; unemployment; welfare state; welfare state reform

Chapter.  18747 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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