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Social democracy, unions, and pension politics in Germany and Sweden

Social democracy, unions, and pension politics in Germany and Sweden
Social democracy, unions, and pension politics in Germany and Sweden
This article investigates the politics of reforming mature, PAYG public pensions in the context of austerity. In both Sweden and Germany, the Social Democratic party leadership advocated reform in response to similar financial and demographic pressures, but the Swedish reform was more successful in correcting perceived program weaknesses and in defending social democratic values. To explain this difference in outcomes, we focus on policy legacies and the organizational and political capacities of labor movements. We argue that existing pension policies in Germany were more constraining in Germany than in Sweden, narrowing the range of politically feasible strategies. In contrast, existing pension policy in Sweden provided opportunities for 'turning vices into virtues' and for financing the transition to a new system. In addition, the narrow interests of German unions and the absence of institutionalized cooperation with the Social Democratic Party hindered reform. In contrast, the Swedish Social Democrats' bargaining position in the pension reform negotiations with the non-socialist parties was formulated with blue collar union interests in mind. The encompassing interests of Swedish unions and their close links with the Social Democrats facilitated a reform compromise.
0143-814X
23-54
Anderson, Karen M.
219ba2d8-cef1-42f9-8153-19b855784e7d
Meyer, Traute
ee469bf0-ab32-43ac-9f25-1261c24123fe
Anderson, Karen M.
219ba2d8-cef1-42f9-8153-19b855784e7d
Meyer, Traute
ee469bf0-ab32-43ac-9f25-1261c24123fe

Anderson, Karen M. and Meyer, Traute (2003) Social democracy, unions, and pension politics in Germany and Sweden. Journal of Public Policy, 23 (1), 23-54. (doi:10.1017/S0143814X03003027).

Record type: Article

Abstract

This article investigates the politics of reforming mature, PAYG public pensions in the context of austerity. In both Sweden and Germany, the Social Democratic party leadership advocated reform in response to similar financial and demographic pressures, but the Swedish reform was more successful in correcting perceived program weaknesses and in defending social democratic values. To explain this difference in outcomes, we focus on policy legacies and the organizational and political capacities of labor movements. We argue that existing pension policies in Germany were more constraining in Germany than in Sweden, narrowing the range of politically feasible strategies. In contrast, existing pension policy in Sweden provided opportunities for 'turning vices into virtues' and for financing the transition to a new system. In addition, the narrow interests of German unions and the absence of institutionalized cooperation with the Social Democratic Party hindered reform. In contrast, the Swedish Social Democrats' bargaining position in the pension reform negotiations with the non-socialist parties was formulated with blue collar union interests in mind. The encompassing interests of Swedish unions and their close links with the Social Democrats facilitated a reform compromise.

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Published date: 2003

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 33893
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/33893
ISSN: 0143-814X
PURE UUID: 01aeac55-ed26-4c35-9e63-3a77520dc2c8
ORCID for Traute Meyer: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0767-8351

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Date deposited: 16 May 2006
Last modified: 09 Jan 2022 03:04

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Contributors

Author: Karen M. Anderson
Author: Traute Meyer ORCID iD

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