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- Author or Editor: David Etherington x
David Etherington provides bold and fresh perspectives on the link between welfare policy and employment relations as he assesses their fundamental impact on social inequalities.
Exploring how reforms, including Universal Credit, have reinforced employment and social insecurity, he assesses the role of NGOs, trade unions and policymakers in challenging this increasingly work-focused welfare agenda. Drawing on international and national case studies, the book reviews developments, including rising job insecurity, low pay and geographical inequalities, considered integral to neoliberal approaches to social spending.
Etherington sets out the possibilities and challenges of alternative approaches and progressive new paths for welfare, the labour market and social rights.
The Labour government’s ‘Welfare to Work’ strategy has been met with criticism on two grounds; the first relates to its free market orientation which is unlikely to reduce labour market inequalities. The second is its capacity to deliver given a stringent macro monetary policy and tight public expenditure constraints which will slow down economic growth and labour demand. In contrast with the UK, Denmark implemented a major reform of its welfare and labour market system in 1994, which essentially retains major elements of the Nordic model. The purpose of this article is to assess critically the development and implementation of the Danish labour market reform programme and consider its relevance for the UK. The article argues that Denmark offers a ‘working alternative’ to free market and neo-liberal policies. As the welfare and labour market reforms are geared towards building a skill base, increasing democracy and accountability and reducing inequality, there are important lessons and guiding principles for the UK.
The chapter provides an overview of the key arguments and structure to the book. Of central importance is to understand austerity as a class strategy involving labour discipline through attacks on social protection and employment relations. Central to the book’s argument is the need to understand the geographical nature of labour inequalities and impacts of austerity cuts in the ‘left behind’ regions. The chapter highlights the way industrial relations and employment relations inter link as Work first policies undermine employment rights and reinforce labour market insecurity and inequality. The chapter briefly outlines the role of agency and the capacities of trade unions and social movements to negotiate and resist austerity are seen as crucial to an understanding of the contemporary welfare and employment crisis. The origins of the book is outlined, arising from previous comparative work on the Danish welfare and employment model which provides relevant lessons when discussing the link between labour and social movements and welfare regimes and alternatives to neoliberalism
This chapter develops a framework for understanding the link between welfare and employment relations. This is followed by a more detailed analysis of austerity neoliberalism and uneven development. The trend towards increased social and geographical inequalities is assessed as directly related to changes in the distribution of power and income away from the working class. The chapter concludes by exploring the way this is contested by trade unions and social movements.
I will explore in this chapter the argument that whilst there were important policy shifts, the continuities with the Thatcher economics and social policy reflected neoliberal politics pursued by the NL government led by Tony Blair. In other words, this brand of neoliberalism has paved the way to the market fundamentalism and austerity politics of the current 2019 Conservative administration. The examination of the NL legacy is critical to understanding what I term the embedding of neoliberalism in welfare and employment policy. The chapter starts with an analysis of NL employment and welfare policies and then an overview of the coalition/Conservative government’s reforms. As well as tracking key policy changes, the chapter will cover responses and engagements of key actors in relation to welfare and work including trade unions and social movements
The chapter explores the resistance by trade unions and rights organisations against the welfare reforms. There are a variety of strategies and challenges – particularly focussed around the removal of the social safety net and the policy of in work conditionality. An important area of struggle is around gender and disability inequalities reflecting the disproportionate impact of austerity on these groups.
The devolution of policies to the English regions is a key Government strategy for addressing geographical uneven development. Using Greater Manchester, the Government’s flagship devolution initiative, the chapter analyses the implementation of welfare reforms in Greater Manchester, arguing that the work first model reinforces precarious economic conditions. The chapter highlights the key actors and organisations who struggle to forge another political agenda in the region.
This chapter draws on research undertaken for Sheffield TUC focusing on the impact of welfare reform on low pay insecure work. Sheffield has been identified as comprising the highest proportion of workers paid below the minimum wage. The chapter analyses the way Universal Credit welfare conditionality funnels people into low paid and insecure work - reinforcing contingent work. The chapter explores strategies of resistance by the trade unions and welfare rights organisation assessing the potentials and challenges with mobilising and engaging marginalised workers and claimants.
The chapter argues that Denmark offers important lessons for developing a critique of austerity and neoliberalism in the UK. The Danish model of coordinated collective bargaining, social redistribution and key role for trade unions in welfare policy are important features of an inclusive labour market. Investment in childcare is a crucial element in the way welfare supports access to employment. Denmark has forged progressive active labour market policies such as job rotation where the trade unions play a key role in assisting unemployed into employment which offers training and in work support.
There is another way and alternative to austerity. Despite the defeat of a Corbyn led (anti- austerity) Labour Party, there are conditions and opportunities for challenging neoliberalism and inequalities. Key to this is questioning the austerity narrative relating to the economy and public services. Alternative policies are assessed including for through collective bargaining, enhanced employment rights, a remodelled social security system which offers a adequate safety net and linking welfare to employment policies through job rotation. Democratising welfare and employment policy through local government is seen as central to a more inclusive agenda