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Labour Market Reform & Social Inclusion: The Case of New Zealand, Ireland & Denmark

Aims & objectives

This project was an ESRC post-doctoral research fellowship held by Colm McLaughlin, with Simon Deakin acting as mentor. The purpose of the fellowship was, inter alia, to enable Dr McLaughlin to develop and disseminate findings from his PhD thesis and to further his career development through participation in related CBR-based research. The thesis explored the relationship between economic efficiency and labour market equity from an institutional comparative perspective and addressed the question of whether institutions and regulations which address issues of equity for low-paid workers can be part of an integrated competitive national strategy. While the market-led approach views labour market regulations and institutions as ‘rigidities’ which reduce flexibility and distort efficiency, an institutional approach recognises the role they can play in enhancing long-run dynamic efficiency.

Drawing on the experiences of three small economies – Denmark, Ireland and New Zealand – over the past 25 years, the study shows that the relationship between efficiency and equity is complex and certain institutional mechanisms play vital economic functions. In particular, institutions for building and maintaining cooperation and coordination prove important for providing consensus, stability and the public goods essential for building a high-wage, high-productivity economy, while also promoting important social outcomes. The study also looked at the nature of institutional change and the extent to which the social partners can innovate and develop new institutional structures for cooperation and coordination. While change is possible, significant ideological divisions prevent new institutional forms from becoming deeply embedded.

Working papers

McLaughlin, C. (2007) ‘The productivity-enhancing impacts of the minimum wage: Lessons from Denmark, New Zealand and Ireland’. CBR Working Paper Series, WP 342 June 2007. 

Conferences/Workshop presentations

McLaughlin, C. (2007) ‘Institutional entrepreneurship without beneficial constraint’. Paper presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE), Copenhagen Business School. June 2007.

McLaughlin, C. (May 2007) Seminar presentation to the Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen: ‘Voluntarism, reflexive governance, and low-paid sectors: Lessons from and for Denmark’.

McLaughlin, C. (2007) ‘Challenging the neo-liberal prescription: The industrial relations lessons from Denmark, Ireland and New Zealand’. Paper presented at the Fifth International Conference in Commemoration of Prof. Marco Biagi, University of Modena. March 2007.

McLaughlin, C. (February 2007) Seminar presentation to industrial relations academics and policy makers (officials from the Department of Labour and peak Business Associations and Trade Unions), at the Management School, Victoria University of Wellington: ‘The minimum wage, industry bargaining and productivity: The lessons from Denmark, Ireland and New Zealand for low-wage sectors’.

McLaughlin, C. (2007) ‘Institutional change without ‘beneficial constraint’: The lessons from New Zealand and Ireland’. Paper presented at the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ) Conference, University of Auckland. February 2007.

McLaughlin, C. (2006) ‘Achieving labour market equity and efficiency in low-paid sectors: The minimum wage and sectoral collective bargaining’. Workshop paper presented at the World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association (IIRA), Lima. September 2006. 

Project leader

Colm McLaughlin

Project dates