Bringing employers’ strategies back in: the impact of organisational practices on job quality and inequalities

Coordinatori di sessione: Lisa Dorigatti, Anna Mori


Testo della call

The increasing segmentation of the labour market, the growth of differences between insiders and outsiders, and the proliferation of low quality and precarious jobs has been a major concern for the “new social risks” literature. This approach has focused on how different welfare systems impact on insider/outsider divides, on how welfare states should be reoriented in order to limit segmentation, and on which role different actors play within reform processes. Rarely, however, the driving forces determining such phenomena have been analysed or questioned (Crouch and Keune 2012). In particular, the role of employers’ strategies in producing segmentation has been substantially neglected or assumed as a natural response to changing international socio-economic conditions. Still, corporate practices such as vertical disintegration, outsourcing, offshoring, and the increasing use of contingent work have been strongly associated with the growth of bad jobs and of insider/outsider divides (Kalleberg 2011). Often, these strategies are implemented in order to reduce costs by explicitly making use of inequalities across different labour market segments. The possibility to access to cheaper and more flexible pools of labour have been described, in this case, as strategies of institutional avoidance (Doellgast et al. 2009, Jaehrling and Mehaut 2013).

Even if these practices have been common in all advanced economies, a remarkable variation both in their extent and in their impact on job quality of insiders and (especially) of outsiders has been highlighted across countries. This variation has been traced down to different regulations of the employment relationship at national level, such as pay-setting institutions like collective bargaining agreements and minimum wages (Gautié and Schmidt 2010). Such institutions can constrain employers’ choices and contribute to the reduction of inequalities across different labour market segments. Hence, since labour market institutions play a significant role in shaping employers’ choices, policies targeted to improve job quality and reduce bad jobs should focus not only on the supply side of the labour market, but also on the demand side.

The purpose of this session is to reflect on the impact of employers’ practices on job quality and labour market inequalities. Moreover, we aim at disentangling which institutional structures are able to reduce segmentation and the proliferation of bad jobs.
The following is a list of indicative, but not exhaustive, topics we would be interested in.

  • Employers’ strategies and the production of bad jobs: How do different organisational practices, such as outsourcing, subcontracting, the use of non-standard forms of employment influence working conditions and the quality of work? Why do employers rely on these practices? Did the current economic crisis and the associated austerity policies implemented by several European governments affect employment practices of public and private organisations? With which effects for workers?
  • The interaction between employers’ practices and institutions: How do regulatory institutions (such as minimum-wages, collective bargaining agreements, employment protection legislation) influence employers’ strategies and the associated outcomes for workers? Do employers’ strategies change in front of reforms of such institutions at national or sovra-national level? Do employers’ strategies affect institutional systems by, for example, eroding their capacity to regulate employment conditions?
  • The response of social actors to employers’ strategies: How did different social actors, such as trade unions, respond to these practices? Did trade unions develop new strategies in order to better protect workers confronted with processes such as vertical disintegration and the lengthening of value chains? Are emerging forms of regulations, such as socially responsible procurement policies, effective in protecting workers?

We welcome papers based on different methodologies. Both papers in English and Italian are accepted.


Relazione di apertura

Lisa Dorigatti
Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di scienze sociali e politiche.
Anna Mori
Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di scienze sociali e politiche.


Persone di riferimento

Lisa Dorigatti
Università degli Studi di Milano
Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali e Politiche
Via Conservatorio 7, 20122 Milano