Reducing Inequalities in Europe
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Reducing Inequalities in Europe

How Industrial Relations and Labour Policies Can Close the Gap

Edited by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead

International debate has recently focused on increased inequalities and the adverse effects they may have on both social and economic developments. Income inequality, now at its highest level for the past half-century, may not only undermine the sustainability of European social policy but also put at risk Europe’s sustainable recovery. A common feature of recent reports on inequality (ILO, OECD, IMF, 2015–17) is their recognition that the causes emerge from mechanisms in the world of work. The purpose of this book is to investigate the possible role of industrial relations, and labour policies more generally, in reducing these inequalities.
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Chapter 3: Belgium: Is robust social concertation providing a buffer against growing inequality?

Ive Marx and Lien Van Cant


Belgium’s social concertation model is extraordinarily resilient. Social dialogue is institutionally firmly embedded and the social partners continue to wield significant influence in shaping social and economic policy. Belgium is also among the few rich countries not to have seen growing income inequalities. Belgium maintains just about the most equal wage distribution in the capitalist world – including one of the smallest gender pay gaps – and there is little evidence of precarisation of work. The key argument of this chapter is that robust social dialogue has helped to contain inequality. The Belgian experience thus provides a powerful antidote to views that growing inequalities are inevitable. However, Belgium’s labour market is not as inclusive as we would wish and this, too, has to be seen, at least in part, in the context of the institutional rigidities and insider biases inherent in an extensive social concertation model such as Belgium’s.

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