I am thrilled to announce that the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung has decided to fund our research project “Sustainability through company pension schemes? The influence of codetermination actors on investment strategies.” The funding will allow Karen Anderson, Tobias Wiss, myself and two postdoc to study this important topic for the next two years. Read more about the project below.
Sustainability through occupational pension schemes? The influence of codetermination actors on investment strategies
How can codetermination actors influence sustainable investments in occupational pension schemes? Considering this topic from an international comparative perspective is of crucial importance in view of the enormous increase in investments of capital-based pensions in EU countries. However, there is a lack of studies that investigate to what extent actors of co-determination influence investment decisions and use them for non-financial purposes. Investing in sustainable activities – i.e. taking ecological, social and corporate governance aspects into account – can be a means of realizing the union goal of a sustainable and just society. It is also important to clarify which standards of social-ecological investments exist and who regulates them and how.
The planned project therefore analyzes a) what influence actors of co-determination have on investments in occupational pension schemes, b) to what extent they take into account socio-ecological aspects and c) whether the preferences expressed at the beginning of the investment chain match the final investment. Answers to this are particularly relevant for Germany in view of the increasing importance of occupational pension schemes. The comparison with the Netherlands and Denmark – both countries with quasi-universal occupational pensions, strong trade union influence and substantial sustainable investments – provides important insights and recommendations for political actors in Germany.
It’s the second and final day of our SASE Mini-conference on The Welfare State in Financial Times. Today, we start with a panel on financialization and state transformation (see details below). We conclude our mini-conference with a panel on financialization and the changing face of welfare.
Panel: Financialization and State Transformation (15:00-16:30 CET)
Panel: Financialization and the Changing Face of Welfare (18:00-19:30 CET)
Today, we’re kicking off our long-awaited SASE mini-conference on financialization and the welfare state. Organized by Jeanne Lazarus, Daniel Mertens and myself, the mini-conference aims to explore the complicated new ways in which social and financial policies have become entangled in contemporary welfare states. The contributions to the mini-conference map the ongoing financialization of the welfare state in contemporary political economies by focusing on the introduction and expansion of financial tools and mechanisms in public and private welfare provision. The contributions study how welfare states and other social groupings have debated and introduced new public policies and financial tools that promise to protect against growing financial risks in everyday life. Looking at these promises of protections through the market requires a fundamentally different understanding of the nature of the welfare state than the scholarship’s traditional focus on decommodification.
Even though we are not able to meet in person in Amsterdam this year, we have been able to put together an exciting online program covering multiple dimensions of financialization in the realm of social policy and the state. Today’s program includes a panel on the political economy of financial sector practices, regulation and macroeconomic functions; financialization and household debt; and financialization and pensions. For details, see below.
Panel “The Political Economy of Finance Sector Practices, Regulation and Macroeconomic Functions” (10:00-11:30 CET)
Panel “Financialization and Household Debt” (15:00-16:30 CET)
Panel “Financialization and Pensions” (18:00-19:30 CET)
I am thrilled to announce that the NORFACE network is funding our project “Democratic Governance of Funded Pension Schemes” (DEEPEN).
DEEPEN explores the democratic governance of capital-funded occupational pension schemes. We adopt Scharpf’s distinction between input legitimacy (are collectively binding decisions in line with citizens’ democratically expressed preferences?) and output legitimacy (do collectively binding decisions serve the common interests of the citizens?) to investigate how governments, regulators and labour market actors govern funded pensions (input legitimacy) and whether participants are satisfied with pension fund performance (output legitimacy). The project focuses on Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Spain because the structure of funded pension provision varies along key dimensions relevant to input and output legitimacy.
The project combines quantitative analysis of survey data with comparative case studies based on elite and expert interviews and analysis of primary and secondary documents. Four work packages investigate the following research questions: How does national policy define participant influence on funded pension provision? How do stakeholders use pension fund governance to influence investment policy? How have capital-funded pension schemes performed in terms of pension outcomes across European welfare states? To what extent are individual attitudes on pension investment aligned with these inputs and outputs?
The project team includes Karen Anderson (PI) from University College Dublin, Juan Fernandez from University Carlos III in Madrid and Tobias Wiss from the Johannes Keppler University Linz. We’ll be hiring post-doctoral researchers (Dublin, Leiden) and PhD students (Linz, Madrid) to join our project team.
Together with Jeanne Lazarus and Daniel Mertens, I am organizing a mini-conference on The Welfare State in Financial Times for the 2020 SASE conference in Amsterdam (July 18-20). Paper abstracts can be submitted from November 25, 2019 until January 10, 2020.
In this mini-conference, we hope to explore the complicated new ways in which social and financial policies have become entangled in contemporary welfare states. Particularly, we are interested in the question of how processes of financialization are shaping welfare state development. On the one hand, the contributions to the mini-conference would map the ongoing financialization of the welfare state in contemporary political economies, both historically and comparatively, by focusing on the introduction and expansion of financial tools and mechanisms in public and private welfare provision. On the other hand, we welcome contributions that study how welfare states and other social groupings have debated and introduced new public policies and financial tools that promise to protect against growing financial risks in everyday life. Looking at these promises of protections through the market requires a fundamentally different understanding of the nature of the welfare state than the scholarship’s traditional focus on decommodification.
This mini-conference has several aims. First, we hope to reintegrate scholarship on welfare and finance to come to a better understanding of how the welfare state and the financial system are mutually intertwined, both historically and comparatively. Second, we hope to approach the mini-conference theme using a broader conception of finance: to include not just financial actors and their interest organizations, but also financial ideas and narratives, norms and practices that interact at different scales of the modern polity. Third, we would like to reflect on how the use of financial tools can be considered as a tool to protect household living standards and economic stability. Finally, we hope our mini-conference forms the basis of new conceptualization of welfare state development under financialized capitalism.
We welcome papers with varied disciplinary backgrounds discussing the following issues:
Variations of finance-welfare interactions across political economies and over time;
Lineages and linkages of institutional/ideational change in social policy areas and financial systems;
State experiments with financial and technological innovations to fund and manage welfare programs;
Political coalitions undergirding or confronting the welfare-finance nexus;
The distributional and political effects of financial market-based social policies, particularly on class, gender, and race;
The relationship between financialization and contemporary paradigms of social policy analysis such as marketization, privatization and social investment;
Histories and narratives on the mutually constitutive nature of the financial system and the welfare state;
Conceptual and methodological discussions that offer new research strategies to study financialization within the welfare state.
More details can be found on the SASE website (scroll all the way down for our mini-conference).
Philip Mader and I will be presenting (for the first time!) the introductory chapter for the Routledge International Handbook of Financialization, which we wrote together with Daniel Mertens, on May 23 in London. Our talk is part of a one-day workshop at the Open University, organized by Pauline Gleadle and Stuart Parris, on the conceptualization and operationalization of financialization.
More information, including the possibility to register for the workshop, can be found here.
I’m very happy to see the new edited volume by Dennie Oude Nijhuis, Business Interests and the Development of the Modern Welfare State, is coming out in July 2019. The volume offers “a synthesis on the question of business attitudes towards and its influence over the development of the modern welfare state.” Chapters consist of both historical country case studies and comparative chapters with country focus on Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Policy aras covered include active labor market policies, educational policies, employment protection legislation, healthcare, private pension programs, and work‐family policies.
My own chapter in this volume explores how the financialization of the political economy during the last quarter of the 20th century has influenced business preferences for occupational pensions. I argue that capital funding has important ramifications for business preferences towards occupational pensions. With capital funding, the extent to which these plans can protect against the social risks associated with old age has become partially dependent on the financial risks stemming from capital funding. Financialization thus turns an influential argument in the business interests scholarship on its head, namely that, depending on size and industry, employers might be willing to incur higher risks to gain more control over social welfare provisions: as financialization reduces the possibilities for control over occupational pension provisions, employers will be more likely to adopt political preferences aimed at risk reduction. My argument builds on a comparative case study of business groups in the United States and the Netherlands.