Towards Convergence in Europe
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Towards Convergence in Europe

Institutions, Labour and Industrial Relations

Edited by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead

This book aims to answer a number of important questions. To what extent have European countries converged or diverged with EU-wide economic and social indicators over the past 20 years? What have been the drivers of convergence? Why do some countries lag behind, while others experience continuous upward convergence? Why are these trajectories not always linear? Particular attention is paid to the role of institutions, actors and industrial relations – focusing on the resources and strategies of governments, employers and trade unions – in nudging EU countries onto an upward convergence path.
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Chapter 3: Belgium: Is strong social concertation a driver of upward social convergence?

Ive Marx

Abstract

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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