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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

The Service Sector to the Fore. The Politics of 'Cheap Jobs' in Germany

Federico Pancaldi
Università degli Studi di Milano
Federico Pancaldi
Università degli Studi di Milano

‘Cheap’ forms of labor have constituted the most prominent case of dualization during the 2000s in highly-regulated European labor markets. Cheap jobs can be broadly defined as those contractual forms that share statutory exemption from collectively agreed wage, diminished social insurance obligations, and low employment protection. To explain the development of dual labor market arrangements, the existing literature tends to attribute primary importance to the strength of cross-class coalitions between manufacturing employers and unions. This paper argues that too scarce attention has been paid to service actors as crucial agents of dualization. It does so by focusing upon the single case study of Germany, in which social partners in the manufacturing sectors are commonly assumed to dominate industrial relations and labor market policy. By analyzing the regulatory history of marginal part-time employment and independent contracting work between the early 1990s and the present time, the paper finds instead that service employers have been key actors for the diffusion of cheap jobs at the micro-level in a first stage, and subsequently for the institutionalization of cheap arrangements at the political level. While employers have succeeded to build a wide political consensus in support of their demands, service unions have lacked the power resources to withstand employers’ pressures. The paper concludes that the literature should take service actors and the power relations between them more seriously when assessing the political determinants of dualization and more generally of labor market policy.
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