A few major points and general hypotheses:
- The increasing heterogeneity of the economy (and the following increasing differences in terms of interests) will make it more difficult for employers to cooperate and to find a common ground in relation to social policies.
- The industrial macro-sectors companies tend to diversify their requests in relation to social policy. On one hand, support for specific skills formation remains an important request in CEE and Southern Europe, where manufacturing has remained more traditional. On the other hand, in the rest of Western Europe, where a move toward high general skills’ jobs took place also in manufacturing, support for specific skills formation goes along with other potential requests to social policy intervention (e.g. given the feminilization of the labour force, it is possible that companies will become more interested also in reconciliation policies).
- The consumption macro-sector, especially where mostly based on small companies, will advocate mainly not for public social policy intervention but for tax reduction and labour costs’ cuts (social contributions’ cuts), due to the fact that the main strategy in this sector is a price-based competition.
- The smart growth macro-sector will be more interested in policies supporting high general skills’ formation (e.g. tertiary degree’s courses) and new social risks (e.g. reconciliation, given the presence of women). The welfare and PA macro-sector will follow a different logic, because it is mostly public or, when private companies are present, strongly influenced by state regulation and funding (e.g. contracting-out of services). In this case, the dynamic will be more affected by political dynamics by trade unions and the State, as employer.
Overall, we can expect that:
- In Southern European countries employers could probably agree on a minimum agenda based, on one hand, requests of tax cuts and labour costs’ containment (through the reduction of compulsory social contributions), on the other hand, tax incentives for occupational welfare solutions at the sectoral and firm level (which would allow companies and sectors to decide how much to invest on “private” welfare provision); the reasons behind such choice could be the following: a) the reliance on the consumption macro-sector makes pivotal the request of such macro-sector within industrial relations and employer associations’ dynamics; b) the presence of many SMEs and small companies, even in the industrial macro-sector, will make strengthen the request of a price-based competition; c) more specifically in the Italian case, the differences between the economic and labour market structure in Northern and Southern Italy will make it hard to find a common ground among firms belonging to these two parts of the country.
- In CEE countries employers will provide a more homogenous coalition which could be based on a mix between, on one hand, tax reduction and cost containments (social contributions) and, on the other hand, VET policies.
- In Germany and other countries belonging to the “traditional balanced model with a strong smart growth sector”, along with the request to contain costs for companies (taxation and social contributions), there should be also the support for social investment policies (reconciliation and – higher – education), especially among companies belonging to the industrial and smart growth macro-sectors; at the same time, there is going to be less interest in sustaining a universal coverage of “old” social risks, with the request of a sectoral and decentralized bargaining (with occupational welfare playing an important role).
- In “post-industrial” countries it is harder to guess what the requests and agreements from employers will be, given the complex interplay among the actors present in three macro- sectors: smart-growth, consumption and welfare/PA; it is likely that in these countries the IR and welfare state tradition will determine the requests of employers (e.g. in pluralist systems employers will agree on a minimal agenda of costs reduction; in neo-corporative models they might insist on social investment policies.