Relying on weak governments: Austrian trade unions and the politics of smoothed dualization

Philip Rathgeb

Abstract

Austrian political actors have improved the protection of outsiders by expanding the coverage of labour rights, social security, and active labour market policy spending in the past two decades. The article attributes these ‘solidaristic’ traits of Austrian labour market policy change to the persistent reliance of weak governments on trade union support in the mobilisation of a durable consensus. When governments are internally divided and prone to reform deadlocks, they face a powerful incentive to share policy-making authority with the social partners. Despite a significant decline in power resources, the Austrian trade union confederation has therefore remained influential enough to compensate outsiders for growing economic uncertainty on a volatile labour market. To substantiate this claim empirically, the article draws on primary and secondary sources as well as interview evidence with policy-making elites.

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