Crisis Corporatism or Corporatism in Crisis? Social Concertation and Social Pacts in Europe

Research question/goal: 

Labour relations in Germany and other European countries have been marked by a long-standing social partnership. This comparative project studied whether governments have involved trade unions and employer associations in their crisis management since the financial market crash of 2008. Building upon neo-corporatist theory and political economy approaches, the main research goal was to explore whether governments included or excluded social partners in their crisis management, and what consequences this had. While social pacts, i.e. formal agreements between government and social partners, were more common in the 1990s, social concertation efforts have been more limited across Europe since 2008.

The results of the project are currently prepared for publication in an edited volume that combines comparative and case studies. A qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of 29 European countries examines over 90 government periods, showing that economic openness, corporatist legacy, and left government participation are particularly conducive to social concertation, while precisely the corporatist countries with the highest economic problems paradoxically failed to develop successful social concertation.

Eight country case studies by international experts analyse the relationship between government and social partners during the Great Recession. Another case study investigates the social dialogue at the European level, showing its limited scope. In the concluding/final chapter, the eight countries are compared and the economic, political, and labour relations contexts impacting on the opportunities of social concertation are discussed.

The project’s main finding is that the EU’s regime of fiscal discipline severely inhibits meaningful concertation in some countries. Countries with more coordinated market economies, however, were more capable of weathering the crisis, with the social partners being key players in contributing to this success. Overall, the comparative and case studies paint a rather bleak picture of social concertation. Certainly, the European Social Model, which is founded on strong social partnership, is now at a crossroads in the face of a new challenge—the Coronavirus pandemic.

Fact sheet

2014 to 2020
Data Sources: 
interviews, primary text analyses, quantitative indicators
Geographic Space: 
Germany in European comparison



Ebbinghaus, Bernhard, and J. Timo Weishaupt (Eds.) (2021): The Role of Social Partners in Managing Europe’s Great Recession: Crisis Corporatism or Corporatism in Crisis?. London and New York: Routledge. [Routledge Studies in the Political Economy of the Welfare State] more
Bender, Benedikt (2020): Politisch-ökonomische Konfliktlinien im sich wandelnden Wohlfahrtsstaat. Positionierung deutscher Interessenverbände von 2000 bis 2014. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. more