TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr.
Januar 2010

Sektion 8.1. Prekäre Lebensbedingungen, unsichere Arbeitsverhältnisse – Expansion sozialer Ungleichheiten. Auf dem Weg von der Peripherie zum Zentrum?
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Rolf-Dieter Hepp (Freie Universität Berlin)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Globalisation, the Labor market, Industrial relations, European social model

Pietro Merli-Brandini (Rome)




It is the common view that globalization generates significant qualitative and quantitative changes. These concern both the economy and society in their expectations and prospects.

The interaction sometimes starts by expectations of the global economy and sometimes the social needs, although for different countries.

Thus the first question: what is the outcome of the interaction between changes in the global economy and institutions (such as rules, both within the National States, as in space)? . At the same time, since the output of the global economic system becomes an input to the social system, which is the result of this impact?

It then analysed the interaction process that starts from social needs at various levels that becomes an input to both the global and national economy and for the institutional systems (understood as regulatory systems).

The answer is not simple and does not lend itself to easy generalizations.

In a broad sense, the Globalization encourages institutional systems of each country towards a "positive adjustment". It is a fact that developing countries, out of necessity, are more advanced than others to make the necessary adjustments. In other words, the international political analysts note that most of the countries is open to encourage economic freedom. "

By way of example we show countries like China, India and many other countries of South East Asia. It notes that such adjustments allow for attracting foreign investment particularly high (thanks also to other institutional factors that do not call here). It notes also that in these countries was in the presence of high and stable growth, salary increments which separate part of the population from poverty. Remain open serious problems such as human rights, democracy freedom of association and so, which contributes to community prosperity and freedom.

In developed countries there are different impacts of globalization towards the institutional and social systems.

The Anglo-Saxon countries are ready to positive changes with regard to economic institutions. They are unwilling to turn growth into improvements in the structures and social benefits.

In the Scandinavian countries there is a positive adaptation in economic institutions. But there is a remarkable ability to defend the social protection system also responding to new needs in this field.

In continental European countries still appear strong difficulties to adjust the  economic institutions in place. They strenuously resist to maintain levels of Welfare achieved even at the cost of the difficulty to cope with new social needs. It also notes that the major countries of continental Europe are characterized by slow growth and fewer resources available for welfare and social security.


Globalization and Labor Market

Strong Globalization is based on a strong mobility of capital and in foreign investment. Financial markets albeit with many risks, meet the funding needs.

There is a strong asymmetry between mobility of capital and the lack of labor mobility.

Hence, the breaking of equilibrium in labor markets that affect the growth of unemployment in countries with low growth, as imbalances in the structure of employment (work full-time, work part-time fixed-term work, temporary work and fund precariousness and insecurity work). The casual, in its various forms and in the weight that can take in every country, is a problem which is poured increasing attention.

It is very doubtful that a regulation that excludes it legally, is (or not) a resolution of the problem. The ban prevents a form not justified, but may also damage  the part of people for whom it would be essential.


Globalization and Industrial Relations

In principle, one can say that the way to protect the fundamental rights (wage levels and working conditions set by contracts and charges for contributory social security) may be assured by public or private agencies, while these agencies send invoices to companies using the workers.

The underlying logic is that making more expensive for companies the cost of casual workers, on the one hand avoids exploitation and the other indicates the true need for companies to take advantage of this form of contract.

This solution is partial. The reduction of the phenomenon rather depends on the quality and level of economic growth which provide the magnitude and extent of job opportunities and employment. In this context, the full-time employment can increase sufficiently to reduce the burden on casual making it marginal and less socially relevant.

The Globalization seems to impose, in a context of neo-classical liberalism, a strong impetus to a growing competitiveness or to a dynamic production based on steady growth in productivity. At this stage, otherwise from the industrial, which could account on the growth of productivity per hour, it appears more and more the concept of productivity per capita. This depends on an extension of working hours.

At this stage, the industrial economy, while progressing, has a dwindling weight in the structure of employment. It grows in the area of services that, in many developed countries, reaches or exceeds 70% of the workforce.

It is therefore also services that occur drive towards a greater duration of the work because it allows a greater delivery of services.

For all sectors is deemed to be useful to make possible, in many different circumstances over time, the use of overtime. The de-taxation and the abolition of social charges to the overtime proposal by Sarkozy makes clear this new trend.

In general, the system of Industrial Relations is stressed by changing forces of Globalization.

Here the summary of new problems to face.


At Factory levels

  1. Industrial Relations are more involved in high performance work system. This means more involvement in “cooperation” and focus of changing work system.
  2. The actual system of collective barbaing give  ground to a strengthen a plant level system of negotiation, on performance based wages and meaningful cooperation on new work system.
  3. Flexible firms are those able to a continuo’s process of adaptation to any environmental change. Changes in work organization and increases of productivity becomes relevant basis for better wages and work condition. These are the new references for collective bargaining negotiation. Traditional negotiation must be replaced by a new as condition for survival of collective bargaining.
  4. Need of more cooperation on changing work system suggest the relevant importance of worker’s representation as in “German mit bestimmang” model. Other models worker’s representation have more difficulties to afford the problem of cooperation.
  5. Flexible firms means also  a tremendous change between the old integrated firms and firms involved in a network process of production (where a product is the assembly of elements produced in 30 or 40 countries). Who are the actors (from the employers side) in these cases?
  6. Many analists join the following conclusion:
    1. the employers as “actors” are evaporating on both sides, individual company (multinational) and employers Association;
    2. the consequences on traditional Industrial Relations system are evident;
    3. the traditional role of trade Union is declining. ONG’S,  lawyers  ethnic groups, labor market intermedies, are already alternatives to the Union;
    4. traditional Union must become more fluid, and represents individual worker for his career and family life cicles.

These forecasts cannot be accepted at all.

Trade Unions as collective actors can maintain their role in all countries where factories (integrated or in network conditions) are centres of consistent employment.

In any case, mainly the International Union, must help the rise and development of labor movement.

Marshall Plan after the second World War, linKing Recovery Funds and support to free trade Unions, remains a good example of this strategy.


At global level

The risk of evaporation of employers or employers association remain the major negative event on the Industrial    Relation System.

As far us network economy is moving, employers and their associations are pressed to cooperate facilitating this process.

This simply means more involvement in international economic policy.

The emerging of globalization and networking economy impose a similar involvement to International Unions.

FMI, WORLD BANK WTO are the  relevant institution having a consistent power in international economic policies and affairs.

If International Unions, Employers Association (adjusted to need of their members) and International Institutions economic planning   accept the idea of a permanent consultation (basic element of any performant economics planning) we can expect not only a role of an Industrial Relations System, but also good social result for humanity.

The Model will work if all parties will adapt ideas an behaviour to the world of the future, abandoning those of the past.


Globalization and the European Social Model

Society as a whole are instable, discouraged, less confident in the future, unhappy.

Individualism and prevailing neo-liberal theories fail in searching solutions.  Any attempt of neo-liberalism  prove to be a failure.

Social benefits are at same time, a result (output) of the interaction among Social forces and the economic and political system, and on reverse an input for the political and economic system.

Peter Hermann in his paper, provide a precious contribution on the usefulness of system analysis.

As a consequence he suggests to study the interaction among constitutional  objective factors (social security, social inclusion, social cohesion, empowerment) and Subjective Factors  (Justice, capability, responsiveness and recognition)

Social quality in his view is simply the result of the interaction among nature and quality of objectives  and subjective factors involved.

Trade Unions, Social structures, Voluntary Associations, Social Communities and other  collective bodies  socially inspired, must be encouraged and oriented  to the buildup of a new European Social Model.

Up to now European Social Model has been the social result of the European Economic Model, and also of cumulated social solutions appeared in the European countries .

In the European experience up to now, equality means or  reduction of inequality, or egalitarianism in a more radical view.

Social quality  ask for adjusted priorities,  opposing re-emerging inequalities.

This means social priorities  and focus, on socio-economic-security and total social inclusion. This means to create room for a highly performing economy, with process and work organisation adjusted to good jobs standards.

A medium term strategy must forecast continuous process of social harmonization to the top, for both individuals and collective actors.

Social policies, at European and national levels, will pursue social quality standard if:

  1. careful national analysis on social needs, represent reality;
  2. European social policies will be a target trend for national social policies.

The European future evolution would be the road map for national social policies.

Naturally the map cannot eliminate or ignore justified difference in social structure and social expenditure tied to territories, demography, habits, preferences and so on.

Anyway the European level will provide a sort of benchmark for specific social   performances which can inspire the national ones.

Special indicators for rate of pensions, family allowances, doles, over G.N.P., will help national social parties to critical evaluation of their own decisions.

A constant process of critical analysis in each Member State along will European policies, becomes the best instrument for “harmonizing in the progress” or “adjust each social system to the best practices in “social  quality”

The process need high political and social involvement Political institution and social partners, in appropriate forms, of consultation, must define strategic objectives, performance planning, and annual results.

In any case consensus  of people is determinant. Consultation of stakeholders and evaluations at due time, are fundamental to gain and maintain  consensus.

Cooperation among European Country’s experiences and those at European Level assure the best of results.

8.1. Prekäre Lebensbedingungen, unsichere Arbeitsverhältnisse – Expansion sozialer Ungleichheiten. Auf dem Weg von der Peripherie zum Zentrum?

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For quotation purposes:
Pietro Merli-Brandini: Globalisation, the Labor market, Industrial relations, European social model - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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