The Political Economy of Public Sector Wage Setting
in Europe

Conference | September 16–18, 2019, Cologne

Topic and Goal of the Conference

Be it concerned with the private sector, or with the public administration, wage setting in the European Economic and monetary union (EMU) matters a great deal. Of the four standard policy instruments that can be used for macroeconomic adjustment, in the EMU, monetary and exchange rate policy are decided at the supranational level; a full-fledged fiscal policy is severely constrained by fiscal compacts. Under such conditions, wage policy remains a key policy tool for national social partners. While private sector wage setting is often beyond the remit of governmental authorities (e.g. Tarifautonomie), in the public sector sovereign employers and public administration officials acquire centre stage in the determination of wage policies. These policies come to constitute the government’ s fiscal policy stance and are indicative of countries’ fiscal trajectories in the EMU.
Scholars in Comparative Political Economy (CPE) have studied extensively the characteristics and trajectories of institutional change of export sector’s wage setting. Much less is known about wage setting in the public sector. In CPE, the public sector has often been analysed merely as a subaltern to agents and structures in the export sector. Regrettably, the public sector has thus been largely neglected.
Such a gap has been filled by the tradition of Employment Relations scholars who have engaged more specifically with the study of public sector employment relations. These studies have concentrated tirelessly on the very distinctive institutions and logics of the public sector. Scholars have looked at trajectories of institutional change in public sector wage setting through privatizations, New Public Management reforms and the declining role of the public employer serving as a model employer for the economy. Rarely, however, have these works engaged with the implications of public sector wage setting for the public finance of the state, issues of fiscal policy coordination in the EMU, domestic electoral politics and more generally for growth regimes of EMU’s members.
When assessing the available literature, one cannot help noticing the presence of a thick disciplinary boundary between political economists and public sector employment relations scholars. There has been a tendency not to build on each other’s advancements and insights. The same can be said with regards to the lack of communication between scholars in general and policy makers.
This conference has the precise objective of reconciling scholars from various sub-disciplines of the social sciences, while bringing them together with practitioners involved in public sector wage setting and policy institutions in order to further our theoretical and empirical understanding of public sector wage setting in the context of the European Union.



Organization and contact

Donato Di Carlo

Phone +49 221 2767-236

MPIfG: Conference "The Political Economy of Public Sector Wage Setting
in Europe " | [Last updated 20.08.2019 10:43]