paper last presented at the Conference of Europeanists, March 30th- April 2nd, 2006, Chicago, USA
After World War II, generous and encompassing pension policies have been developed rather consensually in conservative European welfare states. Since the 1970s, however, two major structural changes shape the politics of pension reforms. On the one hand, changes in labour market and family structures have brought new social needs and demands of specific risk groups on the agenda. On the other hand, financial and demographic constraints increasingly require benefit cuts and a clear-cut definition of policy priorities: whose benefits should be improved and whose pension rights cut? Which beneficiaries should be compensated for retrenchment? I argue that in this context, new lines of political conflict – cross-cutting the labour-capital divide – become increasingly relevant.
In my contribution, I examine coalitional dynamics in German, French and Swiss pension policy reforms since the mid-70s. I show that the positions of trade unions, employers’ organizations and political parties in the reform processes have increasingly become multidimensional for structural reasons. In addition, coalition-building – and, consequently, the substantial development of pension policy - depends on the framework of electoral institutions and the amount of labor and capital coordination in a given production regime, because these institutions shape intra-class cohesion.
The empirical data includes actor positions on all major pension policy reforms in the three countries since the mid-1970s. The analysis of actors’ preferences and alliance-building is mainly based on coded positions and factor analysis, as well as on more qualitative accounts of reforms, based on documents and interviews.