Conclusions: globalisation, crises and institutional responses

Virginia Doellgast, Chris F. Wright, Fang Lee Cooke, Greg J. Bamber

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International and comparative employment relations scholarship has often focused on the differences between national institutional systems, as summarised in Chapter 1. Many argue that these differences have diminished, narrowing the scope for collective, political and social regulation of employment. Connected trends of union decline (Bryson et al. 2011), state-led neoliberalisation (Howell 2020) and financialisation (Thompson 2013) have increased the power of employers to set employment terms and conditions, as well as to escape regulation. Nevertheless, workers and their unions continue to draw on various institutional resources and protections – from workers’ participation rights and collective bargaining coverage to labour market legislation and welfare state benefits (Meardi 2018). This concluding chapter has two aims: first, we reflect on patterns in the development of national employment relations systems, as discussed in the preceding country chapters. Second, we try to move the discussion forward by analysing a range of global forces that may impinge on national employment relations systems, including the role of the latter in shaping these global forces. The first part of the chapter identifies similarities and differences across national employment relations systems. It also discusses trends of convergence and divergence among these systems. This comparison suggests that while there has been some degree of neoliberal convergence (Baccaro & Howell 2017), it is tempered by institutional resilience (Thelen 2014; Wright et al. 2019), particularly through the actions of unions and other actors (see Box 1.1) to mobilise established employment relations institutions in creative ways. We draw primarily on the preceding chapters as well as supplementary sources to draw out these themes and findings. The second part of the chapter examines the impact of four sources of globalisation – economic integration, technological change, and environmental and public health crises – on national employment relations systems. Employment relations is being transformed in far-reaching ways by multinational enterprises (MNEs) and their global supply chains, as well as by union, employer and government responses to digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI), climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing upon the themes discussed in the first part of the chapter, we argue that these four forces of globalisation have affected national employment relations systems in all countries. However, the outcomes have varied across and within countries due to the uneven influence of local institutions and the different responses of the relevant actors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational & Comparative Employment Relations
Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Crises & Institutional Responses
EditorsGreg J Bamber, Fang Lee Cooke, Virginia Doellgast, Chris F Wright
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781529756050
ISBN (Print)9781526499653, 9781526499660
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • political economy
  • industrial relations
  • HRM

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