Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations

Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson

The Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations is an essential resource for those seeking to understand contemporary developments in the world of work, and the way in which employment relations systems are evolving around the world.

Chapter 11: Employment Relations in Belgium and the Netherlands

Hester Houwing, Maarten Keune, Philippe Pochet and Kurt Vandaele

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour, social policy and sociology, labour policy


Hester Houwing, Maarten Keune, Philippe Pochet and Kurt Vandaele* INTRODUCTION Inspired by the welfare states in the northern part of Europe, ‘activation’ of the welfare state became a dominant policy idea in Western Europe in the 1990s, the assumption being that such activation was required, in the first instance, to cope with so-called ‘new social risks’ and, ultimately, for the long-term sustainability of social and welfare arrangements (Bonoli, 2006).1 This new approach is widely believed, especially among policymakers, to have significantly contributed to the success of the Nordic welfare states over the last decade, during which they have achieved a combination of high standards of social protection, high employment participation rates and low unemployment rates (De Beer and Schils, 2009a, p. 1). Most of all, the so-called ‘flexicurity model’ of Denmark has, in recent years, been perceived as an influential role model. The Danish trajectory towards ‘flexicurity’ – a neologism for gluing together, in a positive manner, flexibility with security in the labour market – combines high external-numerical flexibility resulting from a low level of protection against dismissal with high levels of income security deriving from, among other things, generous and long-lasting unemployment benefits and a strong emphasis on early and obligatory activation of job-seekers through active labour market policies – often described as the ‘golden triangle’ (Madsen, 2006). Additionally, the role of the so-called ‘social partners’, that is, trade unions and employers’ organizations, is considered important for developing and legitimizing flexicurity policies in Denmark. Apart from Denmark, the Netherlands is also...

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