World Vol.135 (U.S., etc.)

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U.S. universities and colleges Vol.40 (UCF) / Florida Vol.16

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US Presidential Election 2020 Vol.2 (Brookings Institution)

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Limestone. Silica sand. Kaolin clay.

Switzerland Vol.1


Cantons of Switzerland | TRAMsoft GmbH
The 10 Most Populous Cities In Switzerland | World Atlas
Switzerland’s Political System and Government | ALL ABOUT SWITZERLAND
The Federal Council, The portal of the Swiss government
Switzerland’s direct democracy (YouTube)
What Type Of Government Does Switzerland Have? | World Atlas
This is how Switzerland’s direct democracy works (31/07/2017) | Micol Lucchi WEF
Switzerland’s People Power (04/20/2017) | Catherine Bosley BLOOMBERG
7 Reasons Why Switzerland Is The Best-Run Country In The World (12/11/2012) | Max Nisen BUSINESS INSIDER
Switzerland Celebrates Europe’s Strangest System of Government (21/09/2017) | Mathieu von Rohr SPIEGEL ONLINE
The Swiss Cantonal System: A Model democracy (03/12/2000) | LIBERTY INTERNATIONAL
How Switzerland’s cabinet works – Politics in Switzerland | Just Landed
Switzerland’s 18 living ex-presidents: a political record (07/12/2017) | Thomas Stephens SWI
The political System of Switzerland | SwissCommunity
Switzerland Government | GraphicMaps
Switzerland Corruption Report | GAN BUSINESS ANTI-CORRUPTION Portal
SECRETS OF SWISS SUCCESS – LESSONS FOR NEW ZEALAND (PDF) | Oliver Hartwich The Centre for Independent Studies

Mississippi Vol.2

Mississippi State 1

Government of Mississippi State Mississippi Maps
Government of Mississippi State Chamber of Commerce
Government of Mississippi State Economic Development
Economy of Mississippi State | @EconomyWatch
Mississippi Economy
Mississippi state budget and finances | @ballotpedia
Mississippi Agriculture Overview
Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association (MAMA)
@mdaworks AUTOMOTIVE
Mississippi State University Office of Technology Management


Ireland Vol.29 (Economy, et al. – institutes of technology, counties, chambers, LEOs, et al.)










Ireland Vol.28 (Economy, et al. – institutes of technology/universities, counties/cities, chambers, LEOs, et al.)





County Dublin

South Dublin

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

City of Dublin


Germany Vol.6 (Grand Coalition 2018 #GroKo, et al.)

Germany: Merkel’s next cabinet shows youth trend (11/03/2018) | @dwnews
Chancellor: Angela Merkel (CDU)
Chief of Staff at the Chancellery: Helge Braun (CDU)
Minister of the Interior, Heimat and Construction: Horst Seehofer (CSU)
The fight for the Foreign Ministry: Heiko Maas (SPD)
Finance Minister: Olaf Scholz (SPD)
Minister of Defense: Ursula von der Leyen (CDU)
Economic and Energy Affairs Minister: Peter Altmaier (CDU)
Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection: Katarina Barley (SPD)
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs: Hubertus Heil (SPD)
Minister for the Environment: Svenja Schulze (SPD)
Minister for Health: Jens Spahn (CDU)
Minister of Education and Research: Anja Karliczek (CDU)
Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth: Franziska Giffey (SPD-Mayor Berlin-Neukolln)
Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development: Gerd Muller (CSU)
Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure: Andreas Scheuer (CSU)
Minister for Food and Agriculture: Julia Klockner (CDU)
@cducsubt @CDU @CSU
German Elections: Mapping Economic Policy Preferences (09/14/2017) | Caspar Kolster @gmfus
Germany: A New Government Is off to a Weak Start (03/14/2018) | @stratfor
Coalition watch – The making of a new German government (14/03/2018) | Soren Amelang, Kerstine Appunn, Sven Egenter, Benjamin Wehrmann, Julian Wettengel CLEW
Angela Merkel sworn in for fourth term as German Chancellor (03/14/2018) | Judith Vonberg @CNN
Angela Merkel re-elected as German chancellor to fourth term after five months of political deadlock (14/03/2018) | @tomemburyd @independent
The SPD just won the Frankfurt mayoralty in a landslide. So why are Germany’s cities going red? (03/15/2018) | Stephen Jorgenson-Murray @CityMetric
Merkel secures fourth term in power after SPD backs coalition deal (04/03/2018) | Philip Oltermann @guardian
The last thing Germany – and Europe – needs is a grand coalition (23/02/2018) | Timothy Garton Ash @guardian
German coalition talks to continue on Monday and focus on health and labor (02/04/2018) | Michelle Martin & Andreas Rinke @reuters

Germany Vol.5 (Economy, et al.)

Germany’s Economy: Successes and Challenges (11/28/2017) | Kimberly Amadeo @thebalance
The Economic Miracle and Beyond
Germany: The Party System from 1963 to 2000 | Kimberly A. Allan
Focus Germany @DeutscheBank #dbresearch
How the German elections may affect Brexit | @leopoldtraugott @OpenEurope
German elections: Merkel looking for a (new) deputy (08/29/2017) | Daniel van Schoot and Stefan Koopman
Deutsche Bundesbank
Deutsche Bank
Commerzbank A.G.
KfW Group
DZ Bank Group
UniCredit Bank AG (HypoVereinsbank)
Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg
Bayerische Landesbank
Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale
Germany | @TheEconomist
Articles on German politics | @ConversationUS

Ireland Vol.6 (Economic Crises and the Changing Influence of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on Public Policy)

Here is a paper, Economic Crises and the Changing Influence of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions @irishcongress on Public Policy (PDF, 2010) | Dr John Hogan, Dublin Institute of Technology @ditofficial. Underlines, italicization, excerpts, et al. are on our own.


This chapter examines the dramatic changes in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) influence over public policy during the latter half of the twentieth century.  The chapter focuses upon the impact economic crises have had on the ICTU’s role in policy-making.  The chapter concentrates, in particular, upon four periods, the late 1950s, 1970, the early 1980s and 1987, when the ICTU found its influence over public policy radically transformed.  By the late 1950s the trade union movement was invited into the policy-making process by a government desperate to revive a sclerotic economy.  During the following decade the ICTU played an integral part in the development of economic and social programmes.  In 1970, due to concerns over inflation and the increasing level of industrial disputes, the ICTU, initially under government pressure, became a party to centralised bargaining.  The National Wage Agreements that the ICTU was a party to during that decade were marked by their integration with government budgetary policy.  With active state involvement in industrial relations came ICTU involvement in policy-making.  However, by the early 1980s the Irish economy was in serious difficulties again.  This, combined with trade union and employer disillusionment that the centralised agreements were not achieving their respective objectives of full employment and low inflation and a new collation government determined to remove the unions from the corridors of power, led to the collapse of the national agreements and ICTU finding itself shut out of the policy-making process.  The years afterwards saw the economy continue to stagnate and the ICTU marginalised as a policymaking influence.  By 1987, with Ireland teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, a new Fianna Fáil government came to power seeking to promote a three year national pay agreement with the unions and employers, in the hopes of reviving the economy.  The ICTU, weakened through marginalisation and membership losses, favoured a return to centralised pay agreements.  However, these agreements ultimately came to encompass a wide range of economic/social policy commitments that went far beyond the agreements of the 1970s.


Over the last half century, there has been a series of dramatic changes in the influence of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) on public policy.  This chapter examines those changes, highlighting the circumstances under which they occurred and the kinds of influence the ICTU gained and lost, as a result of its fluctuating fortunes.

By the late 1950s, the Irish economy was in serious difficulty and a mood of despair pervaded society.  Into this environment came Seán Lemass, the new Taoiseach and leader of the largest party, Fianna Fáil.  Lemass introduced new ideas on how to manage the economy and how to reform the country’s relationship with the world.  His ideas and influence transformed economic policy and had a profound influence on the role of trade unions in the formulation of public policy.

The growing economic openness of the 1960s produced incentives for new patterns of collective bargaining.  Ireland had come to rely on foreign direct investment (FDI) to promote industrialisation and employment.  In response, from the 1970s onwards, public policy was directed towards minimising strikes and restraining pay increases: ‘the then Fianna Fáil government of Jack Lynch brought the trade union movement into the policy-making process as a way of ensuring economic stability’.

However, by the early 1980s, the economy had deteriorated.  Although centralised agreements between the employers, the government and the ICTU were the hallmark of industrial relations during the 1970s, they were not achieving the unions’ objectives.  This led to reluctance on the part of the ICTU to continue participating in these agreements.  Irrespective of the unions’ attitude, they were excluded from the policy-making environment by the Fine Gael and Labour coalition government (1982-1987) as economic decline gathered momentum.

By 1987, the economy reached a historic nadir.  In response, a new Fianna Fáil minority administration sought a centralised pay agreement with the ICTU and the employers, bringing the unions’ influence directly back into the corridors of power.  This was to be the first of a series of such agreements.  The social partnership born of these agreements contributed to the transformation of society over the following decades.

The chapter is divided into four sections, each one of which deals with a particular period – the late 1950s–mid 1960s, mid 1960s–late 1970s, the early 1980s and the late 1980s – that saw the ICTU’s influence on public policy transformed.  Each section begins with a discussion on the economy at that time and the impact that this had upon government thinking.  Thereafter, the section moves on to examine how economic circumstances impacted upon the relations and interactions between the government and the trade union movement.


The trade union movement expanded with industrialisation in the 1930s.  However, with industrialisation came inter-union rivalry.  During the 1940s Seán Lemass, then Minister for Industry and Commerce, sought to encourage trade union rationalisation.  However, efforts to rationalise the unions created tensions that fissured the movement.  In April 1945, 15 Irish-based unions withdrew from the Irish Trades Union Congress (ITUC) and established the Congress of Irish Unions (CIU).  The existence of two rival congresses weakened the movement’s efforts, dissipated resources and rendered a common front against employers impossible.  However, in 1956, a Provisional United Trade Union Organisation was set up to co-ordinate the activities of both congresses, with a view to reunification.

The general election of 1957 resulted in a Fianna Fáil victory, and saw its 75-year-old leader, Éamon de Valera, form his final administration.  The year ‘1957 is conventionally thought of as the end of an era, marking the final exhaustion of the ideas of the first generation of political leaders’.  Two years later, de Valera was succeeded as Taoiseach by Seán Lemass.  Lemass, although almost 60, and a lifelong follower of De Valera, was nevertheless to stand for a clean break with the policies of the past and was to oversee the opening of the country’s economy.  The transformative impact of his innovative leadership, upon a then poor and insular Ireland, was to constitute the foundations upon which modern Ireland is built.

The Economic Stagnation of the 1950s

From the late 1940s onwards, the Irish economy stagnated.  Ó Gráda and O’Rourke argue that ‘in the 1950s, Ireland’s relative [economic] performance was disastrous, poorer than the European average’.  The benefits from protection had been reaped by the industrial expansion of the 1930s.  The post-war economic boom petered out at the end of the 1940s.  By the 1950s, Irish industry was supplying as much of the domestic market as it could.

OECD analysis showed agricultural production was abnormally low, while industrial output was faltering.  Per capita GNP grew at 2.4 per cent throughout the 1950s, but only because of ‘the exceptional demographic experience during this period when net migration averaged forty-one thousand persons a year’.  Yet, even this growth rate was among the lowest in the OECD.  Although employment in the economy was falling, the cost of living was still high.  The impact of these disastrous figures upon the populace at large cannot be underestimated.

In 1957, manufacturing output was no higher than in 1953, while building activity declined.  Between 1951 and 1958, GDP rose by less than one per cent per annum, employment declined by 12 per cent, unemployment rose and half a million people emigrated.  By the late 1950s, the outlook for the economy was depressing, while Europe was achieving strong and sustained growth.

The Government’s Response to the Economy

Upon his appointment as Minister for Industry and Commerce, in the new Fianna Fáil government of 1957, Lemass began implementing policies opening the state to foreign investment.  Despite fears over the competitiveness of protected Irish industry, the pressure for change increased.  By the end of the decade, both the government and opposition recognised the crisis facing the country.  During the Dáil debate on Lemass’s nomination as Taoiseach, Daniel Desmond of the Labour Party argued that it was time for the political establishment to realise that solving the problems with the economy superseded their own struggles for power.  On becoming Taoiseach in 1959, Lemass stated that the task was to consolidate the economic foundations of independence.  He brought to government vigorous entrepreneurial leadership.

The crisis in the economy prompted a fundamental reappraisal of the policies pursued up to that time.  Into this pessimistic environment came T.K. Whitaker’s report, Economic Development, in 1958.  Whitaker, then Secretary of the Department of Finance, was committed to export-led growth.  He advanced a strategy within the finance department of more planning, fewer tariff barriers and greater emphasis on productive investment: ‘It was in the atmosphere of a new government and a more active and interventionist Department of Finance, that Economic Development was born’.

This document was ‘a watershed in the modern economic history of the country’.  It proposed the gradual transition to free trade, stimulation of private investment, the reorientation of government investment towards more productive uses, the introduction of grants and tax concessions to encourage export orientated manufacturing and the inducement of FDI oriented manufacturers.  The document advocated abandoning the protectionism Fianna Fáil had pioneered since the 1930s.  These measures were incorporated into the First Programme for Economic Expansion in November 1958.  This White Paper, based on Whitaker’s document, ‘was drawn up by Charles Murray of the Department of Finance, supervised by a four-member Government subcommittee headed by Lemass’.  The fact that Lemass was involved in the White Paper ensured that the essence of Economic Development’s recommendations remained intact:

While there were some significant differences between Economic Development and the [First] Programme for Economic Expansion, which arose out of their different parentage, such differences were for the most part cosmetic as the main thrust of both documents was the same.

The ICTU Brought in from the Cold

The ITUC and CIU eventually reunited after 15 years apart.  The absence of ideological and organisational differences between the congresses made the process of reunification easier. …

Soon after Lemass became Taoiseach he sought a meeting with the ICTU to discuss the challenges facing the economy and how co-operation might be fostered between the various economic interests.  The number of meetings between the new Taoiseach and the unions increased thereafter, whereas there had been little interaction with de Valera.  These meetings covered a range of issues, from the economy to the prospects of Ireland joining the European Economic Community (EEC).  This development was in line with the calls for consultation between state, unions and employers contained in the First Programme for Economic Expansion.

The Fianna Fáil government’s 1958 and 1959 budgets reflected a change in fiscal policy.  Lemass’s speeches in 1959 often paralleled the positions adopted by the ICTU.  These included the need for state involvement in development and the expansion of the state sector.  The ICTU argued that the government should pump-prime the economy for growth and that capital investment should not be pursued to the detriment of social spending.  Within a year of Lemass becoming Taoiseach, budgets began expanding, with increased investment in areas identified by Congress.  By 1961, the reshaping of public capital expenditure, to give increased emphasis to directly productive investment, something the trade unions had argued for, stimulated economic growth.  A policy of grants and tax exemptions attracted foreign capital and the government also pursued an increasingly liberal trade policy.

The Unions and Their Role in Policy Development

Until the 1950s, the unions’ influence was largely indirect.  However, during the late 1950s, the government’s policies began to reflect those of the unions.  Lemass’s perspective on economic development was close to that of Congress.  In June 1959, Lemass remarked on the need for change in industrial development policy.  The government began to regard the trade union movement in general, and the united Congress in particular, as both an ally and supporter of its programme for national development.  The task of adjusting industries to competition led public policy into the realms of labour practices, industrial relations and pay bargaining.  In return, Lemass was prepared to offer the unions an integral part in the development of economic and social programmes:

He [Lemass] clearly understood that the government would have to play a more active, even hegemonic, role in the Irish economy, but he also realised that the success of government strategy assumed a new partnership with different interest groups, which would (in time) become players in the policy game.

In 1961, the ICTU and the Federated Union of Employers (FUE) reached agreement on the formation of the Employer-Labour Conference (ELC), which the government subsequently facilitated.  This body became central to corporatist control.  The unions’ increasing influence was visible in all areas of government policy.  For instance, the 1961 budget saw increases in social welfare payments at the behest of Congress.

Lemass argued that social progress would follow from economic development…  With the move towards the liberalisation of trade and economic planning, Lemass was instrumental in creating consultative bodies involving the unions and employers…

Union membership, declining throughout the 1950s, increased after 1959 and would go on rising for the next 21 years.  After 1959, the number of committees on which the ICTU was represented expanded.  The Irish National Productivity Committee (INPC) was a joint consultative body charged with improving productivity.  The Committee on Industrial Organisation (CIO) was set up in 1961 to examine the ability of Irish industry to compete within the EEC.  The National Industrial and Economic Council (NIEC) was established in 1963 as a consultative body in economic planning.  These bodies, paralleling ‘the state’s commitment to economic planning as contained in the first two programmes for economic expansion’, permitted the unions to co-operate with the state on a range of problems posed by economic expansion.  Thus, the period between 1959 and 1965 was to witness a new pattern of Congress participation in state institutions, such that ‘[t]he institutional setting soon became largely tripartite, with the representatives of business, of labour and of government discussing the issues of employment, output, prices and trade’.


In the 1960s, the economy performed well, real Gross Domestic Product  (GDP) increased by 4.4 per cent per annum, economic openness grew by 23 per cent, while unemployment averaged 5.05 per cent.  Economists attribute this success to export-led growth based upon trade liberalisation and FDI.

The Institutionalisation of the ICTU/Government Relationship

Congress’s attitude to EEC entry was initially cautious, but by 1962 it was willing to support Lemass’s plans.  Congress, recognising free trade as inevitable, decided to embrace it from a position of influence with the government through membership of the CIO and NIEC… the limitations of relying on a web of collaborative bodies to oversee economic adjustment, while collective bargaining remained unregulated, became clear.

The government’s attitude towards collective bargaining was influenced by its increasing economic significance.  As more workers became unionised, bargaining exerted a major influence on macroeconomic policies.  Industrial development’s pride of place in national policy influenced the government’s stance towards centralised collective bargaining.

Lemass had urged a corporatist strategy towards industrial relations following the Second World War.  Corporatism (or as it is sometimes called neo-corporatism) is an inclusive bargaining approach involving the unions, employers and government.  However, the employers’ and unions’ preference for the status quo – free collective bargaining – prevented corporatism’s introduction. …

The pay-rounds of the 1960s prompted attempts to again centralise collective bargaining.  Growing trade union power, rising industrial conflict and wage pressures impelled governments to adopt a more interventionist stance.  The dangers of economic crisis from industrial unrest and an unprecedented pay-round increase in 1969 were the catalysts for the move towards corporatism.  This resulted in the unions’ influence over public policy increasing substantially. Throughout the following decade, pay determination became increasingly politicised and public policy was directed towards minimising strikes and restraining pay.

Economic Stagnation at the Beginning of the 1970s

Economic expansion and decentralised collective bargaining were viewed as incompatible in the NIEC’s Report on Incomes and Prices Policy.  To compound matters, economic growth slowed.  Statistics for output, employment, imports and sales all indicated a stagnating economy.  Industrial production and construction activities were affected by strikes, while investment was depressed by a six-month bank strike.  Inflation was running at 8.5 per cent, its highest level since 1952.  The OECD argued that the high level of inflation was partly due to the labour disputes.  The Central Bank warned that the penalty for high and prolonged inflation would be declining sales, followed by a fall in production and employment.  The improvements in living standards in the 1960s were in danger of being lost to inflation.  At this time, economic openness declined, while the total number of days lost through economic disputes peaked at over one million.

The Government’s Deepening Relations with the Unions

‘The chief lesson emerging from the operation of collective bargaining in the 1960s was that decentralised wage rounds were by their nature unstable and prone to inflation’.  The government’s economic policy, traditionally geared to long-term growth and industrialisation targets, from 1969, became increasingly concerned with inflation.  Demand and output were depressed by the government’s anti-inflationary policy and the recession in the United Kingdom.  The combination of relatively slow growth, inflation and a large external deficit in 1970 presented a dilemma.  As prices became a primary concern, budgetary strategy was aimed at moderating government spending so as not to contribute to inflation.  In response, the government’s policies towards organised labour changed.

The NIEC viewed economic expansion and decentralised collective bargaining as incompatible.  The 1970 budget argued ‘the principle need at present is for a more orderly development of incomes if we are to bring the present inflationary situation under control’.  Another lesson from the 1960s was the need for a joint body to administer national pay agreements.  It was against this background of industrial strife and economic difficulties that the NIEC prepared its Report on Incomes and Prices Policy.  A consequence was the reconstitution of the ELC in May 1970 (which had become defunct during the early 1960s), a significant event in restructuring the adversarial approach to industrial relations.  The government became a participant in the ELC with the intention of influencing wages.  Then Minister for Finance, George Colley, stated that the economy could not afford wage increases unrelated to productivity increases.  Following the collapse of talks at the ELC in the autumn of 1970, the government threatened statutory controls on wages and salaries with a Prices and Incomes Bill.

… it should be noted that the ICTU refused to ratify the agreement until the government withdrew its Prices and Incomes Bill.  The 1970 agreement marked the beginning of a decade of engagement in centralised collective bargaining, a significant change in the politics of pay determination.  Between 1972 and 1978, six National Wage Agreements (NWA) were reached through bipartite negotiations between the ICTU and employers.  A further two agreements reached in 1979 and 1980, referred to as National Understandings (NU), were arrived at through tripartite negotiation with the involvement of the government.

By the mid-1970s, the new collective bargaining was marked by quid pro quo arrangements on taxation between the unions and the state and the integration of government budgetary policy into national pay determination.  The linkage between the national pay agreements and government budgetary policy was ‘the most profound change in the nature, functions and prerogatives of democratic government in the history of the state’.  With active state involvement in industrial relations came union involvement in policymaking.  The relationship between the ICTU, the FUE and the government had changed significantly.

Trade Union Representation and Government Policies

… following the 1970 agreement, the boundary between politics and industrial relations was dismantled by the state and unions.  ICTU representation on government committees, in the economic and social fields, expanded.  All centralised pay agreements were drafted and concluded by employer and trade union representatives in the reconstituted ELC and thereafter adopted as state policy. …

The 1970s saw union membership expand.  Throughout that decade the unions’ and employers’ federations became major actors in policy formulation. … there was a marked change in the level of ICTU policies incorporated into the government’s policies.  The Industrial Relations Act of 1971 largely followed the proposals of the ICTU, and the National Prices Commission was established by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce in line with Congress’s proposals. … By the end of the 1970s, formal tripartite agreements were concluded.  The government went from using budgetary policy to underwrite national pay deals, to placing a range of policy issues on the negotiation table.  The ICTU, through dialogue with the government, gained influence over the most important economic policy instruments in the state.

Industrial relations difficulties – attributed to the wage round system and free collective bargaining – along with inflation, the loss of competitiveness and industrial conflict, impelled the centralisation of collective bargaining.  With the conclusion of the NU in 1979, the government acknowledged a new role for pressure groups in an important sector of economic policy-making and incurred commitments to them; they, in turn, incurred reciprocal obligations involving the conduct of their members.  However, by 1978, the ICTU had grown strong due to the state’s willingness to grant it concessions.  This became clear in 1980…  This left the employers disgruntled and questioning their place in social partnership.


By the close of the 1970s, centralised agreements had become policy agreements.  However, by the time the second NU expired in 1981, the unions and employers were disillusioned.  The sought after economic stability had not materialised. …

The Economy Crisis and Economic Policy

The centralised agreements, implemented as solutions to the economic and industrial relations problems of the 1960s, were increasingly relied upon to address the problems of the 1970s.  The late 1970s saw the economy recover from the downturn following the 1973 oil crisis.  Inflation and unemployment began to fall, while strong growth returned.  Real GDP increased by 5.3 per cent annually from 1976 to 1979.  However, the Fianna Fáil government of 1977 employed an expansionist fiscal policy when the economy was already growing unsustainably.  Strong pro-cyclical policies led to deterioration in fiscal balances, with the public sector borrowing requirement (PSBR) rising from 13 per cent of GNP in 1976 to 17 per cent by 1979.  The structural problems highlighted by the first oil crisis remained unresolved when the second crisis struck in 1979.

Adjustment to the European Monetary System (EMS), entered in 1979 after severing the link with Sterling to reduce inflation, proved problematic and inflation fell more slowly in Ireland than the UK.  The average rate of consumer price increase in 1980 was 18.25 per cent.  Although high levels of current expenditure produced a budgetary over-run in 1979, the government continued its expansionary policies due to the worsening international economic climate resulting from the second oil crisis, increasing unemployment and emigration.

Following rapid growth in the second half of the 1970s, demand fell in the early 1980s.‘The second oil shock, the protracted international recession and the failure to achieve the fiscal policy of retrenchment led to a worsening of [economic] imbalances’.  With a slowdown in growth, unemployment rose to historic levels.  The increase in fiscal deficit, intended to be temporary, became impossible to eliminate as the economy declined.  By 1981, the national debt reached £10.195bn.  The PSBR peaked at 20.1 per cent of GNP, while the current budget deficit stood at 7.3 per cent.  Government spending was so high that the total amount budgeted for 1981 had been used by June.

The Unions and the Ending of the National Agreements

Taoiseach Haughey, who came to power after winning a divisive party leadership contest within Fianna Fáil in December 1979, needed to prove his authority to a divided party with an election victory.  In this context, the government was reluctant to adopt measures that could prove unpopular.  In September 1980, as talks on a second NU entered their final stages, they collapsed, resulting in government intervention.  ‘The Taoiseach managed to press the FUE national executive into resuming negotiations by pledging guarantees on the content of the 1981 budget’.  The second NU was subsequently ratified, but the FUE resented the pressure brought upon it.

Centralised bargaining was not meeting the FUE’s objectives.  For employers,  particularly in indigenous companies in exposed sectors, the agreements imposing similar wage norms across the economy undermined competitiveness.  For the unions, the agreements were not transforming pay restraint into jobs at a sufficient level to meet the labour supply, nor were they reducing social inequality.  The state looked to the agreements to restrain pay increases, preserve competitiveness and deliver economic growth.  However, these objectives were compromised by extensive bargaining below national level.  The result was a second tier of pay determination developed in the 1970s.  Although the agreements had procedures for containing industrial conflict, this was historically high during the 1970s.

Irish governments have tended to appease interest groups through ad hoc policy concessions.  This worked against enduring agreements between the state and interest groups found in continental neo-corporatism.  Additionally, close ideological affinity between the unions and government, a feature of stable neo-corporatist arrangements, was absent in Ireland.  The social partners’ failure to share comparable views on the policies needed for tackling economic problems compounded difficulties.  Employers warned that spiralling wages fuelled inflation and contributed to rising unemployment.  The unions argued unemployment was a consequence of deficient demand.  Their solution was expansionary fiscal policy.  Employers resisted the demands for public sector job creation on grounds that it would have a crowding out effect. …

Political and Economic Instability

The general election of 1981 saw a minority Fine Gael and Labour coalition government come to power.  At a most inopportune time, Ireland was condemned to a period of unstable government.

Prior to the election, the Central Bank stated the ‘fundamental problem is that the community still does not realise that it must adjust its living standards and expectations downwards in the face of deteriorating terms of trade and the need to commit resources to servicing the increased external debt’.  The new coalition government was determined to bring order to the public finances.  According to the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), a spiralling current budget deficit, PSBR and national debt precipitated a new approach to economic management.  Regaining control of the public finances would entail constraining public service pay. …

Government ministers saw little merit in tripartite agreements.  When discussions on a new NU broke down, the government was unwilling to intervene to save the talks. … From late 1981 onwards, with worsening economic conditions, wage rounds became decentralised.  By 1982, all political parties were committed to curbing public spending, which was incompatible with the terms of the NUs.  Union influence on public policy was drastically reduced during the first half of the 1980s, as the ICTU was pushed out of the policy-making process.  The Fine Gael wing of the coalition decided social partners had no right to influence policy.

Political and economic instability peaked in 1981-1982.  With the national debt and budget deficit spiralling out of control, a coherent policy approach was essential.  However, the governments of 1981/1982 lasted such a short time that no clear policies emerged.  When the second Fine Gael-Labour coalition came to power in November 1982, the national debt was almost on par with GNP.  By then, all the parties agreed on the need to stabilise the debt/GNP ratio.

The state’s strategy for much of the 1980s was to exclude the unions from the policymaking process.  State policy changed from focusing on employment to balancing budgets, export growth and international competitiveness.  Persistent turbulence over public service pay, and government disinclination to return to tripartism, meant meetings between the government and the ICTU were formal, tense and unproductive.

The Changed Influence of the Unions

After expanding for two decades, union membership peaked at 545,200 in 1980 and then declined thereafter.  During the late 1970s, the unions’ polices had been finding their way into legislation.  However, by January 1982, the ICTU was at loggerheads with the Fine Gael-Labour coalition over their budget.  Determined to cut government expenditures, the subsequent Fianna Fáil government ignored ICTU proposals.  From mid-1982, in the face of an unsustainable national debt, all political parties committed themselves to curbing public expenditure as a precondition for economic recoveryThe Fine Gael-Labour coalition budget of February 1983 saw the tax burden on pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) workers increase and social welfare cut.  Thereafter, it was clear that on taxes, wages and welfare, the government and ICTU were in disagreement. …

The coalition government of November 1982 to February 1987 experienced considerable difficulties in righting the economy.  As McCarthy put it ‘an attempt to achieve fiscal correction and disinflation through increased taxation, rather than expenditure reduction, completed the economic picture’.  However, the stabilisation of the debt required sharp cuts in borrowing and, consequently, in current spending.  Control over current spending proved difficult to achieve with high unemployment and population growth.  Government spending on social services jumped from 28.9 per cent of GNP in 1980 to 35.6 per cent in 1985. … With investment and productivity capacity depressed by high taxes and interest rates, the economy entered a downward spiral.


The 1980s saw a stagnating economy, deteriorating public finances and unprecedented unemployment.  By the mid-1980s, the level of unemployment was being offset by emigration.  Between 1981 and 1986, 75,000 people left the country, and, for the first time in a quarter of a century, 1986 saw the population decrease.  By 1987, the economy reached its lowest point ever.

The State of the Economy

By 1986, most economic indicators had reached historic lows, while national economic and political commentators, the media and domestic and international organisations, all regarded the economy as in crisis.  The policies introduced to shelter the economy from the oil shocks of the 1970s led to unsustainable macroeconomic imbalances.  Between 1982 and 1987, the national debt doubled to over 130 per cent of GNP.  The government borrowed to spend on welfare services that could be sustained only by more borrowing.  Economic commentators advocated debt repudiation.  Although inflation had fallen, the borrowing requirement stood at 13 per cent of GNP in 1986.  Unemployment reached 17.7 per cent in 1987, with 254,526 people out of work.  The numbers in work had fallen from 1,145,000 in 1979 to 1,095,100 by 1986, shrinking the tax base.

The Central Bank viewed the situation with pessimism, as it would not permit for improvements in welfare benefits to the needy.  The business community was extremely concerned and leading businessman and entrepreneur Tony O’Reilly warned of the dangers of International Monetary Fund (IMF) intervention in the economy.  If the IMF were to intervene in the operation of the Irish economy, it would signal to the international financial community the diminution of Irish economic sovereignty and be widely perceived as confirmation that the Irish government was incapable of righting the economy on its own.

The NESC Report: A Strategy for Development

In this context, the government became interested in building support among the economic and social interests for a national recovery strategy.  Through the involvement of the major economic interests, the NESC acted as a forum for discussing the crisis.  In the autumn of 1986, it produced a report A Strategy for Development, 1986-1990, in which it noted that ‘[t]he argument against a continuation of present policies is based on the consideration that discretion over economic and social policy would ultimately be removed from [Irish] control’.

The NESC report emphasised a plan, requiring an integrated medium term strategy that would command acceptance throughout society to tackle the crisis in public expenditure.  The report was conceived as a means of supporting the coalition government’s recovery plans.  While still in opposition, Fianna Fáil proposed building on the NESC’s report and its 1987 manifesto, The Programme for National Recovery, absorbed much of A Strategy for Development.

The 1987 General Election

By 1986, Fianna Fáil, in opposition, was aware that the unions were disillusioned with the government, especially the Labour Party.  In the absence of political links, the union movement faced the prospect of continued marginalisation from policy debates.  Spotting an opportunity, Fianna Fáil sought to woo the unions through its willingness to involve them in policy discussions if elected to government.  It did not regard the arms length dealings with the unions, employed by the coalition government, as ideal for imposing fiscal discipline upon the troubled economy.  Haughey also denounced the Thatcherite policies of the Fine Gael-Labour government, supporting the calls of union leaders for a return to social partnership.

Labour Party ministers struggled in cabinet to maintain social benefits, imposing considerable strains on the coalition.  Yet, the Labour ministers’ stance had not made their relationship with the unions easier.  The coalition government collapsed in 1987, when Labour resigned in disagreement over budget cuts.

The election of 1987 saw all party leaders proposing fiscal rectitude.  Haughey, leader of Fianna Fáil, stressed that the election was about economic recovery.  The Fine Gael election manifesto, Breaking out of the Vicious Circle, proposed reduced public spending and borrowing.  Fianna Fáil campaigned on a platform of opposition to cuts in social spending and advocated a return to centralised pay agreements.

The election saw a shift of urban working-class support towards Fianna Fáil, in protest at the harshness of the measures proposed by the coalition. The new Fianna Fáil minority administration was considered likely to want to avoid the risks of implementing severe spending cuts.  However, after Haughey visited the Department of Finance for a briefing on the national finances, Fianna Fáil recanted on its manifesto promises, making clear it proposed little modification to the outgoing government’s plans.  The budget introduced in March 1987 sought greater fiscal adjustment than was achieved in preceding years.  This was a marked shift in policy emphasis and a determination to reduce the deficit.  Expenditure was reduced by £250m, while tax revenue increased by £117m.

The Unions and the Programme for National Recovery

The new government’s actions appeared unpromising from the ICTU’s perspective.  However, Fianna Fáil wanted to avoid confrontation with the unions, especially in the public service.  Within a few months of assuming office the government promoted talks on a national pay agreement – The Programme for National Recovery (PNR) – in accordance with the principles in the NESC report.  The administration was interested in securing a three year tripartite agreement throughout the economy.  ‘The Taoiseach invited the unions, along with the other social partners, to take part in an effort to spur recovery by means of consensus’.  To facilitate agreement, the government was willing to modify its stance on public service pay and discuss tax concessions, job creation and welfare.

By supporting a centralised pay agreement for industrial peace and union commitment to spending cuts, Fianna Fáil revealed a preference for defusing, rather than inflaming, industrial conflict and for seeking union support, rather than excluding them from policy deliberations.  By 1987, the unions favoured a return to centralised pay determination.  The prospects of agreement on a moderate pay rise, combined with tight control over second-tier bargaining, also drew in the employers.

The union movement entered negotiations in a weaker position than in the 1970s.  Although the unions had not been consulted on policy by the coalition government, they still possessed leverage in the Dáil with the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil.  However, with Fine Gael now in opposition and operating under its Tallaght Strategy of not opposing the government’s measures to revive the economy, many of which had ironically been proposed by Fine Gael in the run up to the election, the unions had few options besides doing a deal.

Talks built on the NESC report.  The ICTU executive argued that the PNR would prevent Ireland going down the Thatcherite road, where the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) had been utterly marginalised.  Thus, the PNR restored social partnership, as well as brining considerable benefits for capitalism.  The PNR resembled the NUs in scope, but not content.  The central issue was an agreement on wages in the public and private sectors for three years.  However, the PNR, and its successor agreements, also encompassed a wide range of economic/social policy commitments on job creation and welfare benefits.  Unlike the 1970s, these agreements were based on shared understanding of the problems facing the economy and the policies required to address them.

The Unions and Policy Developments

Following the recommendations of the NESC, the government’s objective was to reduce the debt/GNP ratio to a sustainable level.  The change in government economic policy, first encapsulated in its March 1987 budget, as a determination to reduce the deficit, was elaborated in the PNR.  In contrast with earlier attempts, the targets for 1987 were achieved.  Subsequent budgets were designed in harmony with the PNR and the agreements thereafter and they provided for implementation of policies over which the unions had direct input.

Three joint government-ICTU working parties on Employment and Development Measures, Taxation and Social Policy were established and chaired by the Secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach.  More committees were formed following subsequent national agreements.  A Ministerial-ICTU group also met monthly to review progress.  The unions had secured input into policy-making through their position as an essential constituency with rights of representation on state boards, committees and policy fora

From 1987 onwards, Congress policies on pay, tax and social welfare found their way into government policy.  Ireland had embarked on a tripartite approach to income policy, marking ‘a fundamental change in [the] approach to social partnership between that practised up to the early 1980s and that practiced from 1987 onwards’.  The agreements of the 1980s and 1990s were not confined to wages, but encompassed a range of socioeconomic policies.  The focus of these agreements was economic stability, greater equity in the tax system and enhanced social justice, with the result that, ‘in the decade after 1987, interest group activity in Ireland attained centre stage, with the tripartite agreements of the 1990s cementing social partnership’.  Ireland’s political economy shifted from a British, towards a European, mode of consensus between social partners. ‘These arrangements re-established a reciprocal relationship between Congress, the government, and employers on a much stronger institutional footing than heretofore’.

Social partnership arrangement continued to function up until the collapse of talks on a new national agreement in 2008, as a new economic crisis took hold.  It remains to be seen whether Ireland will witness a return to the decentralised collective bargaining of the early 1980s, or if the social partnership arrangements can be revived.  In this respect, the current situation in some ways mirrors conditions in 1981.  The decision on this issue will have huge implications for the role of trade unions in Irish society, and for the performance of the economy, over the coming decade.


This chapter examined the four periods in which the trade union movement’s influence over Irish public policy changed dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century.  In each of these cases, extant economic circumstances had a significant role to play.  Thus, the unions’ changing influence was examined in the context of the broader Irish political economy.

The 1950s was a depressing decade.  However, after Lemass came to power in 1959, the Fianna Fáil administration sought to open the economy to competition and FDI.  Lemass regarded trade union involvement as critical in this attempt to revive the economy.  As a result, ICTU access to the Taoiseach, representation on government committees, government economic policies and policies towards organised labour, changed in the unions’ favour.

Fear that industrial unrest might frighten off FDI led to centralised collective bargaining between the state, unions and employers throughout the 1970s.  The NWAs and later NUs, provided the ICTU with unprecedented access to government, its policies, and their formulation.  These centralised collective bargaining arrangements were linked to government budgets.  Thus, the state came to play a role in industrial relations, in return for which the unions gained influence over economic policy.  By the end of the 1970s, wage agreements were being concluded in a tripartite context.

The early 1980s were a time of economic turmoil and political instability.  The national agreements of the 1970s, a solution to the industrial relations problems of the late 1960s, were no longer addressing the needs of the economy.  The employers’ had become disillusioned with the agreements’ failure to control wage inflation, while the unions felt pay restraint was not resulting in job creation.  In 1981, the government abandoned centralised bargaining, as it sought to bring public spending under control.  As a consequence, the ICTU was excluded from directly influencing policy.

By 1987, with the country on the verge of bankruptcy and unemployment at almost 20 per cent, the political establishment recognised the need for a new consensual approach to the economy.  A new Fianna Fáil administration, building on an NESC report and determined to impose fiscal discipline, sought to involve the unions in policy consultation to avoid the dangers of open confrontation.  For the weakened ICTU, fearful of permanent marginalisation, the prospect of reinstituted centralised bargaining was a welcome lifeline.  The unions saw this as an opportunity to regain influence over taxation, unemployment and social welfare policy.  From 1987 onwards, a tripartite approach to managing the economy developed, wherein the social partnership agreements encompassed a range of economic and social issues.  The ICTU, through involvement on numerous committees and working parties, secured an input into state policies that endured up to 2008.

However, with the collapse of social partnership in 2008, a large question mark hangs over the whole process.  If the impact of current recession was sufficient to collapse the social partnership process, this raises questions as to the underlying strength of the agreements.  Did Irish social partnership hold together from 1987 onwards because of an underlying societal commitment to what the agreements represented?  Or, did partnership exist primarily due to a very favourable set of economic circumstance that, once ended, made it an unsustainable proposition?  The answer to these questions will determine the future of Irish social partnership, and that of the wider economy and society, over the next decade.

Ireland Vol.4 (IRELAND’S ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION: Industrial Policy, European Integration and Social Partnership)

Here is a paper, IRELAND’S ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION: Industrial Policy, European Integration and Social Partnership (PDF) | Rory O’Donnell, Jean Monnet Associate Professor of European Business Studies at University College Dublin (University of Pittsburgh, CENTER FOR WEST EUROPEAN STUDIES, EUROPEAN UNION CENTER, Working Paper No.2, December 1998). Excerpts, underlines, italicization, et al. are on our own.

p3   Introduction

It is an interesting case of macroeconomic stabilisation and adjustment in a small and extremely open economy. It is a fascinating study in industrial strategy and modernisation, a transformation from a weak peripheral economy to a significant centre of high-technology manufacturing and advanced services. It is a story of European integration, and the threats and opportunities if offers to small member states. Finally, it is a remarkable story of social concertation, interest mediation and institutional innovation. While the paper attempts to weave these four stories together, it focuses particularly on the last of them. Since 1987, Ireland has conducted economic and social policy by means of social partnership between the state and economic and social interests. …

Section 2 [Background: Ireland’s Development Strategy: p4-5] outlines the background to the developments of the past decade, particularly the strengths and weaknesses of the outward-looking strategy adopted in the late 1950s. Section 3 [Domestic Crisis and European Integration: p5-9] describes the deep economic, social and political crisis of the 1980s, tracing it to both domestic pressures and the effect of European integration, and reports a variety of recent interpretations of Ireland’s economic ‘failure’. Section 4 [New Perspectives and Approaches: p9-12] outlines the new perspective on internationalisation and the social partnership approach developed in the late 1980s and pursued through the 1990s. Economic performance in the decade of social partnership is summarised in Section 5 [Economic Performance Under Social Partnership: p12-13]. Section 6 [Analytical Underpinnings and the Neo-Liberal Critique: p14-17] outlines the analytical underpinnings of the social partnership strategy and the objections to it advanced by some of the country’s more orthodox economists. Section 7 [Interpreting Irish Social Partnership: p17-22] discusses interpretation of Irish social partnership, suggesting that it is not adequately captured by the concept of neo-corporatism. Some conclusions are outlined in Section 8 [Conclusion: p22-23].

p4   Transnational Corporations (TNCs)… Indeed, during the 1970s, the weakness of linkages between foreign-owned enterprises and the indigenous economy became a major subject of research and policy concern4.

p5  CAP and Structural Funds


European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM)… The period 1980 to 1987 was one of prolonged recession, falling living standards, a dramatic increase in unemployment and, once again, the prospect of emigration as the best option for the young. Total employment declined by almost 6 percent and employment in manufacturing by 25 percent. The length and depth of this depression reflected Ireland’s sharp balance of payments and public finance adjustment and adherence to the ERM. In addition, this weak real performance coincided with increasing public sector deficits and debt; controls on capital spending were more than offset by high interest payments and weak revenues. By 1987, the debt/GNP ratio was approaching 130 percent and real fears of national insolvency emerged. Fifteen years after joining the EC, Ireland’s ability to manage in an increasingly global environment had been tested and found wanting.

Single European Act (SEA)… naturally prompted Irish reflection on its performance in the EC and prospects in the deepening European internal market. It was clear that Ireland’s adjustment to European market integration had yielded striking changes in both the level and composition of trade. There was a remarkable increase in the openness of the economy: exports increased from 38 percent of GDP in 1973 to 67 percent in 1989, while imports increased from 45 percent of GDP in 1973 to 56 percent in 1989. The share of Irish exports going to the UK fell from 61 percent in 1972 to 35 percent in 1988, while the share going to EC countries other than the UK rose from 17 percent to 39 percent over the same period.

The commodity composition of Irish exports showed equally dramatic changes. Although food, drink and tobacco accounted for over 45 percent of the value of exports in 1972, these were soon overtaken by the value of manufactured exports, and now stand at around 24 percent. The exports of the chemical and engineering industries grew from 15 percent of total exports in 1972, to over 46 percent (67 percent of manufactured exports) in 1992. This reflects the profound changes in the structure of the Irish economy which have occurred since Ireland switched to an outward looking economic strategy, and especially since membership of the EC.

NESC identified four possible effects of the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers:  Inter-industry adjustment and trade; Cold shower effect of improved technical efficiency; Intra-industry and trade; Increased firm size and restructuring.


Detailed analysis of output, employment and trade developments in the industrial sector since 1973 identified which of the possible effects, outlined above, materialized in the Irish case…: Cold shower effect; Some intra-industry adjustment; Large inter-industry adjustment; Reduction in firm size.

Given that the Irish economic structure in 1973 was one that had developed behind high protective tariffs, it is likely that severe inefficiencies existed. Economic performance during the gradual reduction of protection suggests that efficiency was improved in a typical cold shower effect. There is clear evidence of an intra-industry adjustment in Ireland following the reduction of tariffs, as firms reacted to free trade by specializing in particular segments of their industry. However, the most significant feature of Ireland’s adjustment to European market integration was a substantial inter-industry adjustment. The nature of this adjustment is best illustrated by identifying three groups of industries, each of which had a different pattern of response: 1. Foreign-owned, grant-aided, export-orientated industries; 2. Industries in which the domestic market is naturally protected; 3. Internationally traded, relatively large-scale, industries.

The first group—chemical, pharmaceutical and electronic machinery—experienced continuous expansion, and rapid export growth, throughout the period of EC/EU membership. Because of their reliance on the domestic market, the industries in the second group (which include paper and printing, drink and tobacco, some food industries and small-scale metal and woodworking firms), fared well in the 1970’s—when domestic demand was buoyant—but suffered severe contraction in the 1980’s, when the Irish economy languished in prolonged recession. …

The third group is comprised of textiles, clothing, footwear, leather, or parts of the chemical industry, motor vehicles and parts, electrical engineering, shipbuilding, bread, biscuits, flour and confectionery and other food industries. Many of Ireland’s relatively large manufacturing firms were in these sectors. After the removal of tariff protection, import penetration was rapid and, in this highly competitive international environment, these industries suffered secular decline in which the larger Irish producers were eliminated. While some difficulties were experienced in the 1970s, the dramatic collapse occurred in the 1980s. …


The fourth possible effect of market integration listed earlier, industrial concentration, was not observed in industry in Ireland. There was, in fact, a fragmentation of indigenous manufacturing industry. The opening of trade induced a sharp reduction in average manufacturing firm size, thereby reversing a slow process of industry concentration that had operated since the 1930s. This seemed to further reduce the possibility of building a large-scale indigenous industrial sector.

This radical adjustment in the structure of the Irish economy was interpreted as the response of firms to European integration. The removal of inefficient practices (the cold shower effect) and an element of product specialisation (intra-industry specialisation) offered some breathing space to indigenous manufacturers. But it did not, as in other countries, complete the process of adjustment. Because Irish firms’ basic scale was too small relative to their new competitors, and because they suffered a range of other competitive disadvantages, that breathing space was only temporary. Competitive pressure for further adjustment built up, forcing contractions of output and employment. In industries where economies of scale exist, contraction of employment and output tends to raise costs rather than lower them. Consequently, such ‘adjustments’, rather than re-establishing Irish competitiveness on a new basis, were the start of the process of long-run decline, inherent in specialisation between industries. The experience of Irish manufacturing between 1973 and 1987 can be seen to be consistent with a modern and realistic understanding of how trade and integration work where there are initial differences in levels of development, technology and scale of production.

The appalling experience of the 1980s, and its analysis as a failure to handle economic integration, had a significant influence on the approach of policy-makers and social partners to the dramatic deepening of European integration initiated by President Delors in the mid-1980s. However, as shown in Section 4, it did not prompt a retreat from European integration or internationalization.

The severity of this experience in the 1980s altered perceptions of the Irish economy. Expectations of medium and long-term prosperity became extremely weak, which encouraged rent-seeking and profit-taking behavior. This was evident in the extent of capital flight in the 1980s and the tendency for various government incentives to produce rent-seeking financial manipulation rather than increased business initiative. The emergence of the so-called ‘black hole’ in the balance of payments and national accounts, and the coincidence of rapidly growing exports with falling living standards and employment, produced fears that the modern Irish economy was fundamentally fictitious. The failure, once again, of indigenous development gave rise to a number of major studies of Ireland’s ‘economic failure.

Crotty argued that Ireland should be compared with third world countries, in which the social and


political structures established under colonialism are used by the state in ways which favor entrenched elites. O’Hearn traced Ireland’s long-run failure to its outward-looking free market strategy, which made Ireland a ‘classic case of “dependent” relations: slow growth and inequality caused by foreign penetration’. Although supportive of inward investment, O’Malley argued that Ireland, as a late-developing country, faced, and still faces, significant barriers to entry created by the scale, market power or technological lead of established firms in larger, more developed, economies.

In an important historical account, Lee traced Ireland’s twentieth century experience to the predominance of a ‘possessor ethic’, as opposed to a ‘performer ethic’, in the country’s institutions, intellect, character and identity. Political structures—the nature of party politics and the failure of politics to represent and mediate conflicting interests—were emphasized by Girvin. Others analyzed the relationship between national political mobilization and the development of Irish Catholicism, and suggested that those factors could have an influence on economic life. Kennedy et al identified a set of proximate causes of Ireland’s failure at the level of policy and administration: failure to grasp the implications of the small size of the economy, absence of a long-term perspective, and neglect of the human resource dimension. Finally, Mjoset’s work for NESC synthesized these studies, suggesting a dynamic interaction of economic and social structures, global political factors, and cultural and attitudinal patterns. In his view, Ireland’s ‘basic vicious circle starts from two facts: the weak national system of innovation and population decline via emigration.  The mechanism whereby these two features reinforce each other must be sought in social structure. These mechanisms are highlighted by studying contrasts which emerge from the comparison with the other…countries’.

In retrospect, many of these perceptions of the Irish economy seem colored by the extreme difficulties of the 1980s. Some of them reflect the fact that—because of its openness and high share of inward investment—Ireland was, perhaps, the first country in which conventional national accounting categories became insufficient. Others reflect the fact that dead-weight, displacement and rent-seeking are particularly prevalent in a stagnant economy with weak expectations. What is remarkable is that within ten years of emergence of the so-called Celtic Tiger, large-scale studies by some of the country’s senior social scientists shared the premise that independent Ireland was an economic ‘failure’.


…Far from accepting the analysis of Crotty or O’Hearn, there emerged a view that internationalisation, and European governance, while they had exposed critical weaknesses in Ireland, were no longer the cause of those weaknesses. Indeed, even deeper European integration and internationalisation, when properly understood and managed, came to be seen as a route to success.

While Ireland’s membership of the EC allowed the country to achieve one of its agricultural policy aims—access to a large, high-priced market—attention turned to problems in agriculture which remained despite, or because of, the CAP. The disappointing development of the food industry, and other problems in agriculture, reflected a range of industrial, agricultural and structural constraints which had not been successfully removed by domestic policy. The loss of so many indigenous businesses was traced to failure of industrial policy and the uneven growth of domestic demand. The focus and delivery of industrial policy was quietly changed—shifting from grants to equity, to an emphasis on indigenous development, to providing business services rather than start-up capital, to strengthening linkages from the TNCs—without any overt shift in industrial strategy. The argument for a greater focus on building indigenous firms and sectors—including clusters of related and supporting industries—received a measure of official support.

… A feature of the NESC approach was its insistence on placing the issue of EMU within a wider set of questions concerning Ireland’s strategic approach to European integration (including political integration) and a new perspective on the regional effects of the overall integration process….


… Economic actors came to recognize what Irish officials had long understood: that small states generally benefit from the formal, legal, supranational elements of integration, whereas larger and more powerful states can work intergovernmental negotiations to much greater effect. From intense study and deliberation, there emerged a recognition that the ‘1992’ program must be seen in the context of other changes in the general economic environment affecting business, many of which are independently encouraging internationalization. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which had opposed the SEA in the referendum of 1987, was, by 1989, promoting integration in a campaign entitled ‘Make Europe Work for Us’.

…NESC’s Strategy for Development (1986) formed the basis upon which a new government and the social partners quickly negotiated the Program for National Recovery to run from 1987 to 1990…


The three subsequent agreementsthe Programme for Economic and Social Progress (PESP) 1990-1993, the Programme for Competitiveness and Work (PCW) 1994-1996, and Partnership 2000, 1997-2000—had a broadly similar form. Each has covered a three-year period, and has set out agreed pay increases for the public and private sector. They also contained agreements on a variety of policy areas, including commitments to social equality and tax reform. While the macroeconomic strategy has been adhered to consistently since 1987, subsequent agreements contained policy initiatives that are worthy of note. The PESP initiated an experiment in which local partnerships seek innovative approaches to long-term unemployment. A recent OECD evaluation of Ireland’s local economic development policies considered that the local partnership approach constituted an experiment in economic regeneration and participative democracy which is, potentially, of international significance. Commercialization, and limited privatization, of Ireland’s state-owned enterprises has proceeded in the decade of partnership. The most recent program, Partnership 2000, contains a measure of agreement on action to modernize the public service, enlisting the social partners in support of the Strategic Management Initiative. Partnership 2000 marks some progress in addressing the issue of enterprise-level partnership. In addition, a partnership approach has been adopted in several policy areas, and was reflected in a range of Task Forces and Forums examining issues concerning education, poverty, the travel community, and people with disabilities. An important feature of the recent Irish approach is the attempt to widen partnership beyond the traditional social partners (trade unions, business and agricultural interests). A new forum was established and the membership of NESC was gradually widened, to include representatives of the voluntary and community sector. Reflecting this, Partnership 2000 was negotiated in a new way, involving representatives of the unemployed, women’s groups and others addressing social exclusion.

…In the decade 1986 to 1996, real Irish GDP has grown by an average of 4.9 percent a year, compared to an OECD average of 2.4 percent. While total employment had fallen by an average of 1.1 percent per year between 1980 and 1986, since then it has grown by 1.8 percent per year, compared to an OECD average of 1.0 percent and an EU average of 0.3 percent. More recently, growth of output and employment has reached unprecedented levels. From 1993 to 1996, growth of real Irish national output has averaged 7.5 percent a year, and employment by a remarkable 4.0 percent per year. The rate of growth of employment in services during the 1990s has been higher than in any other EU country, and also higher than the US. Indeed, the outstanding feature of recent economic performance has been the strong growth of employment rather than earnings. Social partnership has also produced a transformation in Ireland’s public finances. The general government deficit as a percent of GDP


declined from 8.5 percent in 1987, to 2.3 percent in 1994.  The debt/GDP ratio, which reached 117 percent in 1986, has fallen steadily, to 76 percent in 1996. Inflation has remained significantly below the EU average and, having reduced inflation in the 1980s, Ireland did not need a second bite of the cherry (and a second deep recession), as the UK did. However, the performance on unemployment has been less satisfactory. …

Social partnership would seem also to have aided Ireland’s successful participation in the ERM and transition to EMU. “After considerable initial difficulties, it was recognized that satisfactory participation in EMS and EMU requires not only conduct of monetary policy consistent with the exchange rate peg, nor the private sector’s acceptance of modest wage increases, but also consensus on the management of the public finances, including taxation”. Partnership provided the context in which Ireland maintained low inflation and reaped the benefits of lower interest rates and improving competitiveness.  After the loosening of the ERM in 1993, the social partners remained committed to a credible, non-accommodating, exchange-rate policy, leading to membership of EMU. While technical arguments suggest that this is the best exchange rate regime for a country such as Ireland (compared with a crawling peg or free float), the Irish case shows that technical mechanisms can only be effective where the political economy of inflation, incomes and public expenditure is resolved.

The growth of the past decade reflects continued growth of exports and, more recently, strong domestic demand. In the economic conditions created after 1987, Ireland attracted a high proportion of US investment in Europe, particularly in electronics, pharmaceuticals, software, financial services and teleservices. Between 1987 and 1996, the number of foreign firms grew from 670 to 1050, an increase of 57 percent in a decade. In 1996, foreign firms accounted for 47 percent of employment in manufacturing and internationally traded services. There is no doubt that the exports and employment of these firms constitute a significant part of Ireland’s economic transformation. However, there is evidence of greater strength in indigenous enterprises. Irish banking and insurance firms, many of which consolidated prior to the international competition introduced by the ‘1992’ programme, have grown strongly. In manufacturing, it has been estimated that the exports of Irish-owned firms have grown at annual rate of 11 percent in the period 1986 to 1995, slightly ahead of the EU (10.2 percent) and the OECD (10.5 percent). Between 1987 and 1996, Irish-owned firms accounted for 28 percent of the increase in employment and in the period 1993-96 they accounted for 41 percent of the net growth in manufacturing employment. In recent years, a significant number of Irish enterprises—in food and financial services—have undertaken mergers, acquisitions and alliances abroad. Irish enterprises have become attractive acquisitions for foreign investors. Such acquisitions, and the launch of emerging Irish enterprises on the New York or London stock exchanges, have become a routine feature of business life. There is evidence that the new methods of decentralized and flexible organization are being adopted by both TNC and indigenous firms in Ireland.


In its second Strategy document, 1990, NESC set out a framework which has informed its subsequent work, and which underlies the commitment of government and the social partners to the process. It argued that there are three requirements for a consistent policy framework in a small, open, European democracy:

  1. The economy must have a macroeconomic policy approach that guarantees low inflation and steady growth of aggregate demand.
  2. There must be an evolution of incomes that ensures continued improvement in competitiveness, and which handles distributional conflict in a way that does not disrupt the functioning of the economy.
  3. There must be a set of complementary policies which facilitate and promote structural change, in order to maintain and improve competitiveness in an ever changing external environment.

It was argued that, in the Irish case, the first of these requirements is best met by adherence to the ERM, a non-accommodating exchange rate and, as soon as possible, transition to membership of EMU.

The second requirement is best met by a negotiated determination of incomes. To be really effective, such a negotiated approach must encompass not only the evolution of pay, but also taxation, the public finances, exchange rate and monetary policy, the main areas of public provision and social welfare.

In pursuit of the third requirement, the Council advocated a major programme of structural reform in taxation, social welfare, housing, industrial policy, manpower policy and the management of public enterprises. It argued that such reforms can only succeed with the active consent and participation of those who work in the agencies and institutions concerned. This participation is more likely in the positive industrial relations atmosphere which can be created by national policy which, on the one hand, minimizes the scope for conflict over pay and, on the other, lays down rights and duties which foster and encourage security and flexibility.

The conduct of policy along these lines since 1987 allows us to identify some of the core elements of the emerging Irish model of economic and social governance. The first element is an overall orientation, which begins with the belief that the widest participation in social life, economic activity and policy-making are inseparable and fundamental requirements for the well-being of Irish society. This is combined with an unambiguous recognition and acceptance of Ireland’s participation in the international economy and the European Union. This implies that the competitiveness of the Irish economy is a precondition for the pursuit of all other economic and social goals. The third element of the emerging Irish model is the fact that the achievement of a consistent approach to macroeconomic policy, incomes and structural adjustment has been strongly associated with


negotiated programs. …

The international orientation of Irish social partnership was further underlined in the study which underpins the current program, Partnership 2000.  While globalization has undoubtedly undermined many elements of national economic policy, even in large countries, there remain several areas where national policy remains crucial, and may even have become more significant. National policies which influence corporate governance, innovation, the labor market and industrial relations still have a significant effect on national prosperity. In addition, study of current economic conditions clarifies the policy approaches which can be effective in a small, open, European democracy like Ireland:

  1. Most of the policies which affect national prosperity are supply-side policies;
  2. Given rapid economic change, national policies must produce flexibility;
  3. Successful national supply-side policies, directed towards innovation and competitiveness, depend on ‘the high level social cohesion and co-operation that the state can both call upon and development’.

NESC argued that this view on globalization has implications for the three elements of a consistent policy framework, outlined above. It underlines the importance of consensus, both the social partners and the political parties, on macroeconomic and monetary policy. It suggests that, once such a consensus is in place—and is reflected in government policy, wage bargaining and management—there is little value in active discussion of macroeconomic matters, or in agonizing over the transition to, or terms of, European monetary union. The main focus of policy analysis and development should be on the supply-side measures that influence competitive advantage and social inclusion, and the institutional arrangements which encourage discovery and implementation of such measures.

In assessing the merits and potential of the social partnership experiment, note should be made of the political context. It might once have been believed that the social partnership model was dependent on the dominant position of the center-left, catch-all, political party, Fianna Fail. However, since 1987, the party composition of Irish government has gone through rapid change, such that all political parties of any significance have been in government in various coalitions. The social partnership approach has not only survived this, but has gained the support of the Labour Party and the second largest party, Fine Gael. Indeed, the evolution of social partnership has seen a co-evolution in Irish party politics—towards a system of permanent, but frequently re-negotiated, coalition. This brings Ireland nearer to a European system of governance, which does not have the ‘winner takes all’ and ‘oppositional’ characteristics of the British system.

While the evolution of Irish economic policy in the past decade has been marked by a high level of consensus—between the social partners and across the political spectrum—the more liberal and orthodox economists have stood outside the consensus. Some have objected to the politicisation of industrial relations because it ‘adds to the bargaining power of trade unionism on an ongoing basis’.


Others have argued that the social partners are ‘insiders’, whose pay and conditions have been protected at the expense of ‘outsiders who would work for less’, and that social partnership has had the effect of ‘raising the level of unemployment and emigration’. An aspect of the strategy that has particularly provoked orthodox and neo-liberal economists is EMU. A preference for the British model of economic and social policy (of the 1980s) is combined with a preference for sterling rather than the euro. Having failed to shake the consensus on EMU, they argued that EMU requires abandonment of centralised wage bargaining. In its recent assessment of the achievements and limits of the social partnership approach, NESC argued that these criticisms require careful consideration. It suggests that a number of qualifications are warranted.

First, the proposition that centralised agreements have prevented the unemployed undercutting the wage of existing workers, and has thereby increased unemployment, is both conceptually and empirically questionable. As Solow has shown, one of the fundamental features of labour markets, observed almost everywhere, is the absence of wage under-cutting by unemployed workers. This reflects the fact that the ongoing relation between management and labor gives rise to complex patterns of co-operation in which ideas of fairness play an important role.  Wage rates and employment are entwined with social status, and the performance of the worker depends on the price paid for her services. Consequently, it seems inaccurate, on the part of the opponents of Irish social partnership, to attribute the absence of wage under-cutting to the centralised agreements of the past decade.

Second, the argument that social partnership arrangements maintain a high level of unemployment, ignores the fact that, without national agreements, income determination will remain a noncompetitive, highly collectivized, process, with tendencies to monopoly power on both sides of industry. Ireland is unlikely to move to the atomistic bargaining which would seem to underpin the analytical argument, and the political preference, for decentralized bargaining. It remains to be explained how, in a world of decentralized, sectional and non-political bargaining, agents acting in their own self-interest will take greater account of the problems of the unemployed.

The argument that EMU requires abandonment of centralized wage bargaining—or wage contracts linked to the Irish punt/sterling exchange rate—confronts certain problems of a factual, conceptual and practical nature. It is based on the misapprehension that the partnership agreements are entirely inflexible arrangements. It ignores the evidence, from Ireland and other European countries, that coordinated wage bargaining, as part of a wider consensus, plays a role in maintaining low inflation by means of a hard currency peg. Linking Irish wages to the sterling exchange rate would involve less co-ordination of Irish wage settlements, introduce unsynchronized behavior, establish a most unusual (and implausible) wage-contract, and could allow a return to the type of inflation-based bargaining which proved so destructive in past decades.

Indeed, the poorly specified analytical argument against the experiment, can be contrasted with the analysis advanced by the social partners themselves. This is an analysis which begins by noting the small scale and open nature of the Irish economy, the structure of industrial relations, high levels of taxation and social provision and the significant outstanding national debt. In this context, a negotiated consensus—with a non-accommodating exchange rate as the sheet-anchor of macroeconomic policy—must include agreement on the evolution of pay, taxation, the public


finances, the exchange rate and monetary policy, and the level of publicly provided services and social welfare. Four arguments underlie this position.

First, the internationalization of financial markets renders active manipulation of the exchange rate impossible in a small and extremely open economy.

Second, this is underpinned by the new perspective on the regional effects of economic and monetary integration, noted above.

Third, the social partnership agreements underpin the credibility of a non-accommodating exchange rate policy, by enlisting support for it as a long-term policy and ensuring that the ‘fixed’ exchange rate gives the right signal. As Soskice notes, depending on the institutional arrangements, a fixed exchange rate can either encourage moderate wage growth (when unions and employers jointly favour a low real exchange rate), or high nominal wage growth (when unions seek higher real wages in the short-term) .

Fourth, if the social partnership agreements underpinned the exchange rate policy, the reverse is also true: adherence to the ERM narrow band (and transition to EMU) guaranteed low inflation to such a degree that unions were willing to enter three-year wage agreements.

Adopting this approach, Ireland has made major advances in economic management and economic performance. In particular, consensus on this long-run strategy has taken the exchange rate, and therefore inflation, outside day-to-day party political competition and industrial relations conflict. This can be contrasted with an approach in which short-termism rules in economic policy, business decisions and wage setting. It has led, in the UK, to short bursts of fast economic growth, followed by deep recessions imposed in order to reduce inflation. Ireland’s experiment since 1987 has, for the first time in its history, partly inoculated it against the strikingly unsuccessful combination of macro policy and income determination pursued in Britain for many years. Ireland has finally escaped the most negative effects of Britain’s political business cycle and, in the process, has also rejected the neo-liberal approach to social policy and regulation adopted in Britain between 1979 and 1997. As a result, it has preserved a higher level of social solidarity, which seems an essential pre-requisite to sustaining redistributive policies and addressing issues of structural change and reform in a nonconflictual way.

While Ireland’s remarkable economic performance in the past decade is an interesting case of macroeconomic adjustment, industrial strategy and European integration in a small member state, it is also an intriguing case of social and political concertation. How should we interpret the emergence, success and persistence of social partnership in Ireland since 1987? While it is clearly tempting to see it as a version of ‘neo-corporatism’, there are several difficulties with this view. Within Ireland, there is an interesting debate on the correct way to characterise and interpret the development of social partnership since 1987. Perhaps the most compelling interpretations are those which have emerged within the partnership process itself, in response to perceived difficulties and opportunities.


Industrial sociologists have raised important questions about the potential of corporatist governance in Ireland. Hardiman compared the Irish centralised pay bargains in the 1970s with the patterns of neo-corporatist ‘political exchange’ in Austria, Sweden and Norway. Important conditions which facilitated concertation in those countries—such as a dominant social democratic party, cohesive employers’ organisations and a trade union movement with a high degree of authoritative centralisationwere not met in Ireland. Thus, her study explained the limited success of national agreements from 1970 to 1981 and raised doubts about the potential for future development. Her doubts were shared by some other students of industrial relations, who dispute that the current Irish experiment can be viewed as social corporatism, arguing that the trade union elite agreed to a program of severe measures to adjust the Irish economy, first to fiscal crisis, and then to European integration. In addition, it was pointed out that social partnership at national level is weakly reflected in workplace industrial relations.

There can be no doubt that structures and procedures which sustain national tripartite arrangements were weak in Ireland when compared with the classical neo-corporatist models.  However, developments since 1987 strongly suggest that this may not preclude the development of a significant form of social partnership. The trade union movement has entered four agreements covering a wide agenda—including pay, taxation, social policies, public finance management and the Maastricht criteria. The partnership approach has prompted important institutional developments—particularly the establishment of a central monitoring system—that have improved the effectiveness of tripartite concertation and that go some way to overcoming the indecisiveness and clientelism which can arise within the Irish party system. Unlike the 1970s, the agreements of the 1980s and 1990s have been based on a shared understanding of the problems facing the Irish economy and society and the main lines of policy required to address them. While the Irish case involves an unusual balance between national-level and enterprise-level partnership, Partnership 2000 has given rise to a potentially significant initiative on enterprise-level partnership.

In any case, comparison with the classical, Northern European, neo-corporatist cases may have lost some of its relevance. International developments suggest some revision of traditional ideas on both the conditions for and the nature of neo-corporatism. It seems more relevant to compare the Irish experiment with approaches to social concertation in other European countries in recent years, rather than the heyday of post war neo-corporatism. This suggests that we can compare alternative approaches to the policy problem of the late 1980s and 1990s—how to control inflation and maintain social cohesion in the context of deepening European integration and intensified international competition—rather than the policy problem of the post-war golden age. Despite the rhetoric of the 1980s, it does not seem useful to compare countries in traditional terms, such as ‘state versus market’ and ‘centralised versus decentralised’ bargaining. As (Colin?) Crouch suggests, the concepts of institutionalization/de-institutionalization, encompassingness, social partnership and co-ordination, are more useful than the contrast between ‘state-imposed incomes policy’ and ‘free collective bargaining’, and between ‘state control’ and laissez-faire.

The Irish approach has been encompassing in two senses: it encompassed a large enough proportion of the economic actors to produce low inflation and increased competitiveness; and it encompassed


enough of the things that concern these actors—prices, pay, taxation, welfare and social provision—to make the overall strategy coherent. The Irish approach bears some similarities with other cases: as in Germany, there is a de-politicisation of exchange rate policy, combined with a politicisation, or at least institutionalization, of other policy areas; it bears some similarities to the emergency packages undertaken in Belgium, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries; it may, also, involve some ‘social promotion’ of trade unions, in pursuit of wider social goals, such as occurs in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and France. However, an emphasis on encompassing organisations does not fit well with the Irish attempt to widen social partnership beyond the traditional social partners.

A comparative approach has also been used to throw light on the unusual features—some say weaknesses—of the Irish experiment. Traditionally, the most successful approaches to coordination—in Germany, Austria and Switzerland—involve similar macroeconomic policies, but with less reliance on centralised, and particularly state-led, incomes policy. These countries are notable, less for national pacts than for a rich institutional framework that links company-level market sensitivity and flexibility with coherent national-level behaviour. A key challenge facing Irish social partnership is to address the weakness of indigenous Irish enterprises and the problems of long-term unemployment and social exclusion. It is now recognised that this requires institutional developments below the central level at which the social partners and the state have recently developed expertise in dialogue and negotiation. But it is no longer clear that the institutional arrangements in the once-successful continental countries provide a model which Ireland should follow. Indeed, considerable institutional innovations have been undertaken in Ireland—in policies addressing long-term unemployment, rural and urban re-generation and business development—and it is possible that these, however unorthodox, are more suited to current economic, organisational and technological circumstances.

In order to develop social partnership, and make it more inclusive, it has been necessary to analyze the nature, purpose and goals of the partnership approach itself. In its 1996 report, Strategy into the 21st Century, NESC offered the following characterisation of social partnership, as it has developed in the past decade:

  1. The partnership process involves a combination of consultation, negotiation and bargaining.
  2. The partnership process is heavily dependent on a shared understanding of the key mechanisms and relationships in any given policy area;
  3. The government has a unique role in the partnership process. It provides the arena within which the process operates. It shares some of its authority with social partners. In some parts of the wider policy process, it actively supports formation of interest organisations;
  4. The process reflects inter-dependence between the partners.
  5. Partnership is characterised by a problem-solving approach designed to produce consensus, in which various interest groups address joint problems;
  6. Partnership involves trade-offs both between and within interest groups;


  1. The partnership process involves different participants on various agenda items, ranging from national macroeconomic policy to local development.

A distinction can be made between two conceptions, or dimensions, of partnership: Functional interdependence, bargaining and deal making; Solidarity, inclusiveness and participation.

Effective partnership involves both of these, but cannot be based entirely on either. To fall entirely into the first could be to validate the claim that the process simply reflects the power of the traditional social partners, especially if claims for the unemployed and marginalised are not included in the functional inter-dependence, and are seen as purely moral. To adopt a naive inclusivist view would risk reducing the process to a purely consultative one, in which all interests and groups merely voiced their views and demands. While these two dimensions are both present, even together they are not adequate.

There is a third dimension of partnership, which transcends these two. Although the concepts of ‘negotiation’ and ‘bargaining’ distinguish social partnership from more liberal and pluralist approaches, in which consultation is more prominent, they are not entirely adequate to capture the partnership process. Bargaining describes a process in which each party comes with definite preferences and seeks to maximize its gains. While this is a definite part of Irish social partnership, the overall process (including various policy forums) would seem to involve something more. Partnership involves the players in a process of deliberation that has the potential to shape and reshape their understanding, identity and preferences. This idea, that identity can be shaped in interaction, is important. It is implicit in NESC’s description of the process as ‘dependent on a shared understanding’, and ‘characterised by a problem-solving approach designed to produce consensus’. This third dimension has to be added to the hard-headed notion of bargaining (and to the idea of solidarity) to adequately capture the process.

The final element in this argument is that there are limited pre-conditions for effective social partnership of that sort. The key to the process would seem to be the adoption of ‘a problem-solving approach’. As one experienced social partner put it, ‘The society expects us to be problem-solving’.


A notable feature of effective partnership experiments is that the partners do not debate their ultimate social visions. This problem-solving approach is a central aspect of the partnership process, and is critical to its effectiveness. This suggests that rather than being the pre-condition for partnership, consensus and shared understanding are more like an outcome. It is a remarkable, if not easily understood, fact that deliberation which is problem-solving and practical produces consensus, even where there are underlying conflicts of interest, and even where there was no shared understanding at the outset. It is also a fact that using that approach to produce a consensus in one area, facilitates use of the same approach in other areas. The key may lie in understanding what kind of consensus is produced when problem-solving deliberation is used. It is generally a provisional consensus to proceed with practical action, as if a certain analytical perspective was correct, while holding open the possibility of a review of goals, means and underlying analysis. This type of agreement certainly involves compromise. But the word compromise is inadequate to describe it. ‘Compromise’ so often fudges the issues that need to be addressed.

This view, that there are limited pre-conditions to social partnership, is then combined with observation of three trends which demand a further revision of conventional ideas of neocorporatism.

The nature and role of social partners is changing, in ways that require a new view of what a social partner is now. The traditional characteristics of partners in neo-corporatist systems—social closure’ (monopoly representation of a given social group), a functional role in the economy (preferably in production), centralised structures for representing and disciplining members —seem to be losing their relevance. Organizations cannot take for granted their role as representatives of a given group, with defined and stable roles. They must continually mobilize, co-ordinate and provide services. While success traditionally depended on power resources, information is the key resource that a modern social partner brings to the table. In the place of the old form of bargaining, there are new forms of public advocacy: analysis, dialogue and shared understanding. The role of representation has weakened. Mobilizing, organizing and solving problems (with others) are the feature of effective social partners.

We are also witnessing an historical shift in the role of the center and national government. The complexity, volatility and diversity of economic and social problems, and of social groups, is undermining the ability of central government to allocate resources, direct the operation of departments and agencies, and administer complex systems of delivery and scrutiny. These traditional center roles are being replaced by new ones: policy entrepreneurship, obliging and assisting monitoring, facilitating communication and joint action between social interests, protection of the non-statutory organizations that now have responsibility in many policy spheres, and supporting interest group formation. Traditional conceptions of neo-corporatism seem premised on an outdated view of the power, autonomy and effectiveness of central government.

The relationship between policy making, implementation and monitoring is changing, in ways which place monitoring, of a new sort, at the center of policy development.  For a variety of reasons, national-level partnership, which focuses on national-level policy-making, is unlikely to solve the complex and diverse problems which citizens confront. What is required is examination of practical successes and failures, which is used to revise both the methods and goals of policy. This demands


a new fusion of policy-making, implementation and monitoring. If the institutional arrangements to achieve this can be found, it seems unlikely that the social partners will play their conventional neocorporatist role as representatives to the same extent.

This discussion of the nature and preconditions of social partnership, when combined with the three trends outlined above, provide a new view of social partnership as it is developing in Ireland. In particular, the categories and ideas found in earlier studies of classical North European neocorporatism seem inappropriate in understanding the Irish experiment. Indeed, it is possible that the Irish case might assist the formulation of a new concept of post-corporatist concertation, as it is emerging in several European countries.


Four strands of policy development have been reviewed: macroeconomic stabilisation, industrial policy, European integration and social partnership. None of these is entirely resolved, and none entirely understood. The nearest to resolution is the macroeconomic, the long transition to EMU being almost complete; though UK adoption of the euro is necessary for Ireland to make permanent its approach of the past decade: economic policy without macroeconomics. The least well understood is industrial policy, and the apparent transformation of Irish business. In seeking more effective policies for indigenous development over the past 20 years, Irish studies drew on various models: the Japanese firm, the industrialization of Korea and other late-developing economies, flexible specialization, the industrial districts of Italy and Germany, the National System of Innovation of successful, small, European countries, Porter’s clusters and the networks of resurgent Danish and other regions. Now that some competitive success is emerging, it turns out not to conform to any of these models. Consequently, we urgently need to know more about Ireland’s business transformation and how industrial policy works in its relations with enterprises and sectors.

The relevance and interaction of the four strands of policy is not in doubt. All four figure in any tentative explanation of Ireland’s success of the past decade.

First, after 1987, Ireland achieved consensus—across both the social partners and the political parties—on the requirements for successful participation in the European economy and on the view that there was no way of escaping these requirements.

Second, Ireland achieved a high degree of wage co-ordination; in Ireland’s case, this was done by means of centralized bargaining, which relied primarily on a cohesive trade union movement and strategy.

Third, Ireland achieved a sufficient degree of consensus on public finance. This was necessary not only because of the Maastricht criteria but, more fundamentally, because of the way in which taxation and public provision interact with both wage bargaining and the exchange rate.

Fourth, Ireland (in its European context) had a set of supply-side characteristics that ensured international competitiveness and encouraged fast economic growth. These included a young, well-educated, English-speaking workforce, improved infrastructure (funded by both the EC and the Irish state), an inflow of leading US enterprises (attracted by both Irish conditions and the deepening European market), a new population of Irish enterprises (free of the debilitating weaknesses of the past and open to new organizational patterns), and deregulation of the service sectors (driven by the ‘1992’ process).

The complex interaction of domestic and international factors is clear. The common thread, the underlying transformation, is a switch from a long history in which external factors were constraining, to a new situation in which the external environment provides valuable inputs and even its undoubted constraints can be used as opportunities. It seems that European integration has transformed Ireland’s relation to its international environment, and social partnership has transformed its internal ability to mediate interests and adhere to coherent strategies.

It is remarkable, but clearly no coincidence, that the opponents of one are also opponents of the other. Their opposition, negligible in policy terms but influential in academia and the media, is both to the substance of the prevailing consensus and to the idea and value of consensus itself—and, most of all, to the proposition that, in the circumstances of the past decade, these two interact. Yet those who achieved Ireland’s transformation have little doubt that closing-off macroeconomic alternatives freed management, trade union and government energies for discussion of real issues that impact on competitiveness and social cohesion—corporate strategy, technical change, training, working practices, the commercialization and/or privatization of state-owned enterprises, taxation, public sector reform, local re-generation, active labor market policy—and forced all to engage in realistic discussion of change. They sense, even if they cannot say, that this approach was particularly liberating in a country whose political system tended to clientelism, whose enterprises had grown used to direct and indirect protection and whose trade union movement had developed in the British adversarial tradition.

New Zealand Vol.5 (Manifesto 2014 of NZ Labour Party – current largest opposition party; ruling party 1999-2008, et al.)

Here is New Zealand Labour Party Policy Platform (PDF) in November 2014. Excerpts are on our own.

Chapter 1: Labour’s values
~ Labour’s values are underpinned by our commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi

~ Labour’s values are enduring values

~ Labour’s values have shaped New Zealand

Chapter 2: Tāngata Whenua

Chapter 3: Strengthening the economy
~ Vision
3.1 Labour is committed to a strong economy. Labour believes a strong economy is one in which everyone enjoys the security of good incomes and jobs and the natural environment is enhanced and protected.
3.2 A strong economy is underpinned by export-led success and a government that plays an active role in creating that success. Labour will build an economy on social democratic values that will not tolerate economic settings based on existing, or growing, levels of inequality. We believe that New Zealand has great potential for robust and durable economic development that will improve people’s lives across the Māori and Pasifika economies, across regions and industries, and in all our communities.
3.3 Labour is committed to financial and economic development policies that will transform New Zealand into a sustainable, resilient, low-carbon economy that is high-performance, high-wage, high-employment, and export orientated. Labour recognises the inadequacy of GDP has a measure of the quality of life of a people and is committed to developing broad-based measures of economic, environmental and social wellbeing.
3.4 Since its ground-breaking first term in office, Labour has actively promoted a strong, diversified, successful New Zealand economy. Labour holds that government must play an essential role in managing and developing the economy. We reject the notion that free markets on their own will deliver either long-term prosperity or just distributional outcomes.
3.5 Labour remains committed to this vision and programme. The challenge now is to turn these positive structural changes into economic progress by working more closely in partnership arrangements to create the conditions for success in industries, sectors, and regions. The aim is to build a high-value, high-performance, export-oriented economy. We particularly recognise the potential for such outcomes in vibrant Māori and Pasifika economies.

~ Our approach
3.7 Labour is committed to a productive and innovative economy that has:
• high-value, high-wage jobs
• participative, safe workplaces
• employment relations legislation that promotes collective bargaining, protects minimum standards and guarantees working people and their unions a voice
• engaged, valued, and well-trained workforces assured of a living wage that allows working families to participate fully in community activities
• regular increases to the minimum wage
• A tripartite framework for collaboration with government, businesses and unions.
Labour also believes that key and essential infrastructure, services and public assets should be provided by and regulated by the state and/or by local communities.
3.8 Labour will undertake sustained diversification of the New Zealand economy to improve standards of living and export success. Manufacturing is vital in a modern, successful economy. We are committed to advanced manufacturing and services, supported by new partnerships, to expand investment in research and development.
3.9 Regional and sectoral development is vital. New Zealand’s regions must be encouraged and supported to play a full role in our economic development. Labour is committed to a strong rural economy in which existing high-performance sectors are complemented by support for other emerging sectors to reach similarly high standards. Agriculture’s traditional economic role, especially in exports, remains important for Labour. Responsible resource extraction or mining will also play a role in the economy. We believe there is considerable potential to grow the value of New Zealand’s seafood and marine industries while ensuring appropriate standards of sustainability and decent working conditions.
3.10 Labour recognises the potential for New Zealand as the producer and exporter of quality food to a growing international market. Our reputation for integrity, animal welfare and environmental protection must be protected and enhanced as we grow the volume and the value of our exports.
3.13 Under Labour, procurement policy will be based on whole of life costs, local industry participation plans, resilience, and sustainability, as part of value for money. This will enable New Zealand firms to be competitive in bidding for these contracts. Procurement policy will also be used to advance social, regional development and economic and environmental goals. Labour will deliver monetary policy that strikes a balance between the control of inflation and a competitive exchange rate, and which will support strong economic performance. We will promote policies that reduce the incentive for speculative financial behaviour.
3.14 Labour is committed to a fair and transparent tax system that promotes social equity, sustainability, and economic growth. Labour is committed to environmentally responsible outcomes in economic development, and clean and renewable technologies with an emphasis on reducing carbon emissions.

~ Portfolio priorities
Delivering financial stability and successful macroeconomic policy
3.20 Labour will act to reduce and then stabilise New Zealand’s exchange rate when it is overvalued by drawing on a range of monetary tools and the experience of successful export economies. Under Labour, the Reserve Bank will have a balanced focus on inflation along with other objectives, particularly a competitive exchange rate underpinning improved export performance and job creation.
3.21 We will promote a regulatory environment for financial institutions based on prudent, transparent, and professional behaviours. Labour believes in a universal Kiwisaver scheme to improve savings performance. Labour will promote R&D as an integral part of a strong economy, including through targeted tax benefits that encourage successful research and business collaborations.
3.23 Labour will support international trade and investment agreements that promote New Zealand’s economic wellbeing and support fairness, transparency, sovereignty, and sustainability. Labour takes seriously environment, labour, and human rights standards that are frequently raised by trade agreements, and is committed to improving such standards as part of trade agreements.
3.24 Labour is committed to a system of universal superannuation. Labour will ensure the future sustainability of the system and will consider options to achieve this, including raising the eligibility age. If this occurs, we will ensure that those who cannot work past 65 in their normal work and need the cover of superannuation will receive the equivalent of the superannuation payment from the age of 65.

Delivering sustainable economic development
3.29 Labour will implement an economic development approach that is ‘clean, green, and clever’. This approach will maintain high environmental standards, promote high-value production, and favour a lower-carbon, more renewable energy future.
3.30 Labour’s economic development strategy will be a bottom-up partnership model, rather than a top-down, state-to-client model. In this model, business, industry, regional, workplace, trade union, and community organisations will be first to identify opportunities for initiatives to drive improved economic performance and improved outcomes for people. These initiatives will be developed and taken to government for evaluation and support. Labour will respond to these initiatives actively, constructively, and in partnership with communities and industry while protecting and promoting the overall national interest.
3.31 Labour will implement a New Zealand manufacturing strategy. Labour believes that manufacturing has been the lost opportunity in New Zealand’s economy since the 1980s. We will focus on manufacturing because it will deliver high-performing jobs, high-performing workplaces, investment, innovation, exports, and opportunities for improved productivity.
3.32 Labour welcomes foreign direct investment when it:
• is integrated into advanced manufacturing and services that lead to jobs for New Zealanders
• maximises our competitive advantage
• expands the stock of New Zealand’s intellectual property.
3.33 Labour will, on a partnership basis, implement focused, evidence-based industry policies, designed to respond to market failures and opportunity analysis. Labour will work hard to ensure that these policies are strongly supported by:
• basic infrastructure and institutions
• New Zealand-based savings and investment
• skilled labour, public-good research, R&D tax credits, linked government procurement, and international market intelligence and assistance.
3.34 Labour will have an active regional policy that clearly identifies regional development priorities. Infrastructural capacity will be central to Labour’s regional policy, including a commitment to an efficient transport system that prioritises public transport and reduced emissions.
3.35 New Zealand’s information technology infrastructure is important in Labour’s vision for the economy. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will drive economic development in New Zealand for decades to come. Labour will ensure that New Zealand takes the opportunity for economic development from ICT as a sector itself and uses it to enhance performance and innovation in other sectors.

Chapter 4: Protecting and preserving the environment
~ Vision
~ Our approach
4.12 Climate change
4.14 Energy
4.16 Resource Extraction
4.18 Conservation
4.23 Water
4.25 Transport and urban design — Labour is committed to all New Zealanders growing up in a country with a high-quality and pleasant built environment where:
• our homes are healthy and energy efficient
• our cities are well designed
• our transport systems are accessible, safe, and efficient
• people are able to walk and cycle without fear for their safety
• public transport is affordable and widely available for people, and
• Transport systems and urban design support the transition from carbon-dependence.
4.29 Oceans—Labour’s vision is for healthy oceans that are wisely managed to protect marine species and birdlife. In exercising economic opportunities, we must protect our marine environment and its intrinsic ecosystem values for generations to come including through a network of marine reserves and other protected areas. Labour supports legal requirements for environmental impact assessment of significant ocean and ocean-floor development. We support fishing rules and quotas that achieve long-term sustainable use. We believe in integrated oceans legislation to ensure the sustainable use and environmental protection of marine resources.
4.30 Agriculture/rural sector—Labour recognises the strides that many in the agricultural and rural sectors have been making in developing good environmental practices. We will work with farmers and agricultural scientists so that best practices become the industry norm. This approach recognises that, in the long term, our prosperity is bound up in retaining important eco-services and in the international perception of environmental stewardship. Labour will support those in the agricultural and rural sectors who protect and enhance the environment, and hold responsible those who do not meet their obligations and continue to pollute the environment.

Chapter 5: Opportunity and fairness for all
~ Vision
5.1 The goal of Labour’s social development policy has always been that New Zealand would be a place where everyone, no matter what their circumstances of birth or what unexpected troubles life throws at them, will be included and able to get ahead: to build their capabilities, make their own contribution, and have a stake in society.
5.2 Labour wants to see all New Zealanders able to reach their potential knowing that if real hardship and tragedy happens, there will be real social security and a pathway to opportunities for them. Labour wants New Zealand to be a country where disadvantage is not produced and reproduced across generations. To break this cycle, Labour wants:
• healthy, affordable housing
• access to healthcare
• support for disability
• access to childcare and adequate time to spend with children
• equal educational opportunities moving from education into work
• a living income
• security of income in old age.
5.10 Labour will always fight for a fairer New Zealand. Fairness and equality of opportunity are strong New Zealand traditions and a part of Labour’s soul. Widening gaps between better and worse off and between men and women, young and old, mean that the ‘social contract’, the strong shared sense of ‘us’, is under increasing pressure. So too is the sense of having a stake in society, that there are opportunities for everyone, and that responsibilities are mutual. We will always work to heal social divisions, reduce the experience of exclusion and alienation, and eliminate the need to put up walls to keep others out and down.

~ Our approach
5.12 Chance and misfortune mean that some people struggle even in ‘the good times’. Security, mutual responsibility, and fairness demand that those adversely affected should not depend on charity and the stigma that carries, or be subject to humiliation or meaningless ‘make work’ to survive.

~ Portfolio Priorities
Families, children, and young people
5.24 As a matter of principle and sound social and economic investment, Labour is committed to banishing child poverty in New Zealand. The solutions are not simple, and the goal cannot be achieved immediately. We will co-ordinate and monitor its approach across all of government and policy including:
• early intervention for vulnerable children
• labour market issues
• access to early childhood education
• adequacy of income
• appropriate and accessible healthcare and housing.

5.27 Labour will strengthen the legislative and policy framework to address the persistent gender pay gap and promote equal employment opportunity. Labour is committed to paid parental leave and flexible working conditions to allow women to participate fully and effectively in society. Labour recognises, with particular reference to women, that everyone has the right to be free from violence and harassment.

5.32 Overall, housing provision requires several actors working within an effective framework. Under Labour, the state sector will take a stronger lead in improving the quality of rental situations, starting with its own properties. We will work with others, including community housing providers and developers, to provide quality housing for less well-off families.
5.33 Labour will continue to improve the quality of the state housing stock, and work with local councils, state social housing providers, developers, and community social housing providers to deliver a mix of affordable rental and privately owned houses—houses people want to live in, and in many cases are able to own.
5.34 Labour will find ways to work with families through savings schemes, Kiwisaver and Kiwibuild, to enable them to own assets. We will make sure finance and bond markets are geared to provide long-term secure capital, not the usual cycles of boom, bust, capital destruction, and debt hangover.

5.35 Labour believes that a truly inclusive society is one in which disabled people have meaningful lives within their communities, based on respect and equality; have their diversity recognised; and their human rights protected. This is reflected in the motto ‘nothing about us without us’.
5.36 Labour recognises that impairment is a part of many New Zealanders’ daily lives. We believe each disabled person must be recognised as an individual person with their own set of needs and aspirations: no two disabled people are the same. We believe that a disabled person should be supported to follow their aspirations, to make choices, and lead a quality life. They must have choice over their housing needs, employment opportunities, sporting and recreational activities, political aspirations, and education opportunities—things most of society takes for granted.

Senior citizens
5.41 Concerns about aged-care health services, elder abuse, and cost-of-living pressures are mounting for older New Zealanders. Future generations will not have the same levels of asset ownership that currently keep poverty low for older New Zealanders. Inequalities that developed earlier in life are likely to have greater significance in old age. Labour’s commitment to all senior citizens is that they will ha