Political parties and non-standard employment: an analysis of France, Germany, Italy and Spain

Political parties and non-standard employment: an analysis of France, Germany, Italy and Spain Abstract Recent research has shown that new labour market divides resulting from the rise of non-standard employment (NSE) are reflected in the political preferences of the workers affected. Yet, our knowledge of the stance of political parties on the issue is extremely limited, even descriptively. Do they address NSE in the context of election campaigns—if so, which parties do? How do they frame non-standard work and what policies do they propose? The article tackles these questions by analysing party programmes in four large Continental and Southern Europe states where NSE is widespread and poorly integrated into the systems of social protection. We find that attention to and criticism of non-standard work follows a left–right distribution, but we also find differences within the left: left-libertarian parties address the issue more specifically, while more traditional left-wing parties often link it to other labour concerns. 1. Introduction Labour markets in developed countries are changing. One salient phenomenon is the expansion of non-standard forms of employment (dependent employment that diverges from full-time, unlimited employment), such as fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, and part-time work, often associated with higher insecurity and lower pay. In Western Europe (EU15), the share of employees in temporary employment has risen from about 7% in the early 1980s to 14% in 2014. Similarly, part-time employment has risen from 12% to 19% (OECD, 2015). This poses dilemmas for party systems built on an industrial class structure where the representation of interests regarding the world of labour was clear: left parties representing labour as a whole, right parties representing middle and upper classes. How does this pattern of representation respond to the rise of non-standard employment (NSE)? After all, the latter introduces new divisions in terms of security and flexibility of labour (Rueda, 2007). Some workers continue to be relatively well protected by existing policies, while others are much more exposed to fluctuations in demand for labour. Scholars have in fact found that non-standard workers differ in their political preferences (e.g. Häusermann et al., 2015; Marx, 2015). This makes it paramount to ask how these interests are represented in the political system. Are they neglected, which may give rise to alienation, or are they voiced by political parties and, if so, by which? Research so far has done little to provide empirical responses to these questions. Related literature implies conflicting hypotheses, but there is no direct empirical research on this topic. Existing comparative data sets (such as Comparative Manifestos Project) do not contain items specific enough for this purpose. By thoroughly examining party positions in a sample of four large European welfare states, we shed light on an issue that is of importance to research on the political implications of recent labour market change (e.g. King and Rueda, 2008) as well as to research on changing party systems (e.g. Kitschelt, 1994; Kriesi et al., 2008). This article examines whether and how political parties approach NSE in an electoral context. To what extent do they take non-standard workers into account when making campaign promises? After deriving expectations from pertinent theories in political economy and comparative politics, we examine party positions in a sample of four large countries in Continental and Southern Europe where NSE is extensive. We analyse the electoral manifestos of all sizeable parties over two elections in terms of whether they explicitly address NSE, how they frame it and what policies they propose. Although we discuss the theoretical implications of our findings with respect to the existing literature, this is first and foremost a descriptive analysis that enhances our knowledge independently of a causal argument (Gerring, 2012). Given the lack of previous research and available data, we analyse primary sources qualitatively. Conducting this research for four major West European states and two elections each, constitutes a notable empirical contribution. Our research speaks to a number of debates. First, by analysing political parties we complement the focus on individual-level preferences prevalent in the more recent literature on the politics of new labour market divides (e.g. Häusermann et al., 2015; Marx, 2015), which is in turn related to the broader discussion of welfare state dualization (Emmenegger et al., 2012). Secondly, by improving our knowledge of parties’ stances on NSE, we contribute to a better understanding of the politicization of new labour market divides. Thirdly, our results have implications for research on changing party systems (Kitschelt, 1994; Kriesi et al., 2008), as we find that the second, ‘socio-cultural’, dimension of European party systems reflects recent labour market transformations. Fourthly, the findings of this article provide some indication of the responsiveness of representative democracy with respect to the rise of a new social issue, i.e. inferior employment contracts that increasing numbers of workers are forced to accept. The next section discusses the literature on the politics of new labour market divides, followed by theoretical considerations regarding policies affecting NSE. Subsequently, we present the research design. The empirical analysis first summarizes the findings by country and then moves on to a comparative discussion. A final section concludes. 2. Literature on the politics of new labour market divides NSE has been a major topic in comparative political economy since the early 2000s (cf. Kalleberg, 2000; Hipp et al., 2015). A more recent strand of this literature studies the new labour market divides from a political perspective, focusing on how they affect preferences at the individual level. NSE has been shown to increase subjective economic insecurity and lead to distinct policy preferences (Burgoon and Dekker, 2010). Non-standard workers display stronger support for active labour market policies, but also for redistribution and more egalitarian social policies (Marx, 2015; Häusermann et al., 2015). Preferences for political parties are also affected by labour market status. Marx and Picot (2013) show that non-standard workers in Germany are more than standard workers inclined towards the Greens as well as the small left-socialist ‘Die Linke’. Looking at Sweden, Lindvall and Rueda (2014) find that the party preferences of labour market outsiders are shaped by party positions on employment policy. In a comparative study, Marx and Picot (2014) reveal that political differences between fixed-term and permanently employed workers depend on the degree of labour market segmentation. Nevertheless, pooling survey data from 17 European countries, Marx (2015) finds that temporary workers are clearly more likely to support Green parties and somewhat more likely to support far-left parties, compared to workers in unlimited employment. Other contributions have further advanced this strand of research by deploying panel data, investigating different mechanisms through which labour market disadvantage affects political preferences, and applying theoretical concepts from research on economic voting (Emmenegger et al., 2015; Marx, 2016). Studies that distinguish between the unemployed and non-standard workers show that the two groups differ in their electoral behaviour. While the jobless tend to be alienated from electoral politics, non-standard employees show no signs of participating less than labour market insiders (Marx and Picot, 2013; Corbetta and Colloca, 2013; Marx, 2015). This further supports the case for examining NSE as an electoral issue since non-standard workers vote as actively as those in standard employment. The existing results on political preferences of non-standard workers are consistent across studies. Corbetta and Colloca (2013) find only weak evidence of differences in party preferences between temporary and regular workers. However, they divide party preferences into a left and a right block, hence not allowing for preferences to differ between parties within each block, which other studies show is relevant. Moreover, wherever the unemployed and non-standard workers are distinguished the differences between the two groups are consistent. Rovny and Rovny (2017) find different results for the electoral preferences of outsiders depending on operationalization. Yet, most operationalizations they use combine non-standard workers and the unemployed. Their results when using a more differentiated operationalization by labour market status bolster the notion that such distinctions are pertinent.1 1 Counter to the studies cited above, Rovny and Rovny (2017) find that temporary workers are more likely, relative to labour market insiders, to abstain from voting. Overall, existing individual-level studies show that the economic disadvantage associated with NSE translates into distinct party preferences. This suggests that some political parties offer positions that appeal to non-standard workers. While Lindvall and Rueda (2014) as well as Marx and Picot (2013) take this into account, to the best of our knowledge no study has examined specifically to what extent and which political parties address NSE as an electoral issue. At the end of his extensive study, finding preferences of temporary workers for Green (i.e. ‘new left’) parties, Marx (2015, p. 118) points out: ‘Future research should document empirically whether the new left really advocates more outsider-friendly social policies’. Our article responds to this query, but goes beyond just one party family and investigates the entire party spectrum. Thus, we supplement the micro-focus of the literature with much-needed research at the party-level. Even though most existing literature is not explicitly concerned with party positions on NSE, important theoretical strands in comparative political economy yield conflicting implications in this regard. First, traditional partisan theory holds that left parties represent the working class as a whole and, if in government, adopt policies in favour of labour interests, such as generous social policies (for an overview and references, see Häusermann et al., 2013). This view would lead us to expect that left parties represent and defend also the interests of non-standard workers. Secondly, this has been challenged by insider–outsider theory, which claims that whenever the interests of labour market insiders and outsiders diverge, social democratic parties represent the interests of the former (e.g. Rueda, 2005, 2007). Indeed, no party is expected to clearly address the interests of outsiders, defined as the unemployed and most categories of non-standard workers, due to their low electoral participation (according to most studies, see above, this applies to the unemployed but not to non-standard workers). Conservative and liberal parties may address outsider interests to the extent that they present dismissal protection as hindering outsider access to stable jobs (Rueda, 2005, p. 62). Communist parties are expected to be strongly pro-insider, and Christian democrats are seen as somewhat insider-oriented but not as much as social democrats (Rueda, 2005, p. 67). A later refinement of this approach has highlighted that insider–outsider divides in the labour market constitute, above all, a dilemma for social-democratic parties (Lindvall and Rueda, 2014). When they turn to insider and middle-class interests they lose the outsider vote to the left. When they turn to outsider interests they lose the insider and middle class vote in the centre. Thirdly, research on electoral realignment in post-industrial societies has questioned the electoral assumptions of insider–outsider theory (e.g. Kitschelt, 1994; Häusermann, 2010;). This view posits that left-libertarian parties (such as Green parties or modernized social democrats) are sensitive to new distributional issues such as NSE. There are four reasons why this may be the case in spite of Green parties being seemingly focused on non-economic issues (Marx, 2015, pp. 43–44): (a) For the most part of their history these parties have in fact taken economically left-wing positions, drawing attention to the worse off in capitalist societies (Kitschelt, 1988). (b) Being smaller left-wing parties, just like small far-left parties, they are able to attract those who are disappointed by the major centre-left parties. (c) In contrast to traditional left-wing parties, they have no longstanding link with the labour movement, which otherwise may associate them with insider-oriented demands such as dismissal protection. (d) Due to their commitment to minority and women’s interests, they tend to favour universalist social policies, which are more accessible to non-standard workers with unstable employment careers. Lastly, in a related but distinct trend of electoral realignment, right-wing populist parties increasingly attract support from blue-collar workers (Bornschier and Kriesi, 2013), that is, from workers that often have permanent, full-time jobs. The above theories—traditional partisan politics, insider–outsider theory and post-industrial electoral alignment—have different and conflicting implications for the positions political parties take on NSE. It may seem straightforward to think of NSE as ‘a left-wing topic’, in line with partisan politics theory. But in its simpler interpretation, insider–outsider theory actually predicts this not to be the case. In its more nuanced version, it is still seen as a dilemma. Moreover, in the light of recent voter realignments there are important differences between left-wing parties, and left-libertarian parties are seen as more likely to address NSE concerns. Lastly, the literature has focused attention on left-wing parties. Yet, even if NSE is a policy problem taken up by the left, what is the stance of other political parties? Do they ignore the issue? Or do they actively support the expansion of NSE? 3. Theoretical considerations: policies affecting non-standard employment In order to investigate parties’ stances on NSE, we need to consider which policies are relevant and what they imply for non-standard workers. Many policies potentially affect NSE, but the most relevant are: unemployment benefits, regulation of NSE and regulation of dismissal protection of standard employment. What are the interests of non-standard workers regarding these policies and how do they compare to those of standard workers? We follow existing literature and assume that standard and non-standard workers differ mainly in their (in)stability of employment (Rueda 2007; Häusermann et al. 2015). Broadly, standard workers care most about stability of employment and work conditions, while non-standard workers are most likely to be concerned about unemployment and access to stable jobs. First, regarding unemployment benefits the expected preferences of both groups are clear. Non-standard workers tend to have a higher risk of unemployment and face specific challenges to access unemployment compensation. Sometimes their contract types are not covered by existing schemes. In other cases, unstable careers and low salaries lead to insufficient contribution records if benefit entitlement is strongly based on insurance principles (e.g. Grimshaw and Rubery, 1997; Berton et al., 2012). Therefore, more generous, more universal and less insurance-based benefit entitlements are clearly better for non-standard workers. By contrast, given their more stable jobs and longer contribution records, standard workers are less likely to need unemployment benefits and more likely to be already covered by them. Moreover, they would have to pay for expanded entitlement through their taxes or social contributions. Secondly, NSE regulation sets the conditions under which employers can hire workers on non-standard contracts. Strict regulation can reduce this type of employment or improve its conditions. It is likely that non-standard workers welcome legal constraints on bad employment conditions. On the other hand, re-regulation may hinder employment growth by limiting employers’ flexibility. However, such indirect effects are unlikely to be the first consideration of workers in precarious jobs. Standard workers may benefit from the existence of an NSE segment as a flexibility buffer, because non-standard workers tend to be among the first to suffer the consequences of economic downturns (Rueda, 2007, pp. 21–22). Yet, standard workers may feel at risk of being laid off as well and face the prospect of having to accept a precarious job. In addition, the secondary labour market tier can exert downward pressure on wages and job conditions in the primary tier. Hence, it is well possible that, like non-standard workers, labour market insiders also prefer stronger regulation of NSE (Marx, 2015, pp. 38–40). Thirdly, strict dismissal protection most obviously benefits those in standard jobs. Its implications for non-standard workers are less straightforward. While firing costs may prevent employers from hiring additional staff in standard jobs, non-standard workers get no immediate benefit from lower employment security of standard workers, and lower employment security may make the objective of obtaining such jobs less attractive for NSE workers (Emmenegger, 2009; Marx, 2015). Research on individual-level preferences backs the considerations above. Compared to standard employees, non-standard workers tend to be more supportive of redistribution but less supportive of strongly insurance-based entitlements (Häusermann et al., 2015). Moreover, temporary workers are mostly against deregulating dismissal protection (though in some countries not as strongly as standard workers; Marx, 2015, pp. 59–70). The discussion above implies that the most distinctive party position to address the interests of non-standard workers is to widen the eligibility of unemployment benefits. A policy that may appeal to non-standard as well as standard workers is to re-regulate NSE. Demanding a deregulation of standard employment can be presented as facilitating hiring in standard jobs, but it is doubtful that this is appreciated by non-standard workers. Other policies that can be relevant for NSE are entitlement rules for old-age pensions, fiscal incentives to hire workers on permanent contracts, Active Labour Market Programmes (ALMPs, due to non-standard workers’ higher risk of unemployment) or minimum wages (as non-standard workers are more often low-paid). Yet, these are not as immediately relevant as the three policies above. To reduce complexity, our primary focus is thus on the mentioned three policies. However, our hand-coding of documents enabled us to take other policies into account where necessary. The main interest of this article is on how attention to NSE as an electoral issue varies across parties by ideology or ‘party family’ and, thus, to check whether there is a general pattern across our cases. Of course, which parties in a given country address the issue can be affected by factors other than party family. First, issue competition arguments would view NSE as a new and potentially divisive political issue. Parties that profit from the status quo shy away from such an issue, whereas opposition and small ‘challenger’ parties are more likely to broach it (De Vries and Hobolt, 2012). Secondly, socio-economic context, such as unemployment levels, may matter. On the one hand, high unemployment may diminish attention to NSE, because it is publicly perceived as a more pressing problem, while NSE may be seen as a way to move people out of unemployment (Marx, 2012). On the other hand, a surge in unemployment can increase insecurity among labour market insiders, thus diminishing the differences in preferences between insiders and outsiders (Rueda, 2006, p. 389). In addition, non-standard, especially temporary, workers are often the first to be affected by employment reductions. Hence, a rise in unemployment can underline the precariousness of NSE and thus increase its salience. Because the time period we study spans the economic crisis of 2008 (see below), we are in fact able to observe the effects of a surge in unemployment. 4. An explorative study of four major cases At the start of this research, the extent to which parties explicitly address NSE in an electoral context at all was uncertain. Consequently, we selected countries where NSE is likely to become a political issue. These are countries with high NSE and with welfare institutions that are maladapted to it, i.e. Bismarckian welfare states where income protection relies strongly on social insurance. Moreover, we selected large West European states in order to reduce variation on other basic parameters. Our country cases comprise Germany, France, Spain and Italy. We cover all parties that received at least 5% of the votes in at least one of the last two elections to the lower house of parliament.2 2 In France, we take vote shares from the first round of the run-off electoral system. However, we omit regionalist parties in Spain, as mobilization on regional interests may affect representation of labour market issues in ways beyond our interest. We consider the last two national parliamentary elections (as of October 2015) because we are interested in a recent assessment, while covering more than one election allows us to reduce non-systematic variation. The covered elections are: Spain 2008 and 2011, France 2007 and 2012, Germany 2009 and 2013 and Italy 2008 and 2013. Thus, we capture for each country one election just before or at the beginning of the global financial and economic crisis and one election in the subsequent phase of austerity. This allows us to assess the effect of a surge in unemployment. We have chosen electoral manifestos as our main source. These documents publicize parties’ official stance before an election on a number of issues that are assumed to be of interest to the electorate. ‘Parties use these documents to announce their policy positions to voters, as well as to mark their starting positions for the process of government formation following an election’ (Benoit et al. 2009, p. 450). A frequent criticism of election manifestos as a source is that they are not widely read. However, they are uniquely valuable because they record the official party position and serve as a publicly accessible reference during and after the election campaign. Although public statements of politicians may deviate from the official party platform and transmission of political messages largely depends on the media, the electoral programme can be used by citizens and journalists to hold parties and politicians to account during and after the election. While our main interest is in the public stance of parties rather than government actions, we account for parties’ track record on labour market reform to check for the credibility of positions. Further, labour unions and employer associations often have an important say in the making of labour market policies, sometimes to the extent that governments delegate reforms to an agreement between social partners. Such practices were rare in the cases and time period analysed in this article. Moreover, as parties did not refrain from expressing their position on the issue of interest, this does not pose an obstacle for our research. We obtained manifestos through party websites, the Comparative Manifesto Project (CMP, https://manifestoproject.wzb.eu), and www.polidoc.net (Benoit et al., 2009). We could not use the coded CMP data because it contains no item specific enough for our purposes. We coded manifestos manually using the software NVivo. Our coding categorizes statements, but does not quantify the manifesto content. Rather, statements are read in the context of the overall manifesto. The coding scheme was developed specifically for this analysis and is reported in the Online Appendix. It implements the following questions: Does the manifesto address NSE (as a general phenomenon or any specific form thereof)? If yes, how is NSE framed and is any statement made regarding its causes and its relation to standard work? Further, what are the explicit policy proposals concerning non-standard work? Even when not explicitly linked to non-standard work, we recorded party positions on main labour market policies. Finally, we collected statements on industrial relations and general economic and social policy without more refined distinction to facilitate an understanding of the policy context. For example, strong support for collective bargaining, without particular emphasis on widening coverage, is more oriented towards labour market insiders than outsiders. This is referred to in the extended case studies in the Online Appendix. What we mean by a party ‘addressing NSE’ amounts to the mentioning of NSE in the manifesto, while taking into account the following aspects: How often and how specifically is it mentioned, and is it highlighted in important sections of the manifesto or ‘buried’ somewhere in the technical details? More precisely, to assess the importance of NSE as an issue we consider two aspects. First, is NSE highlighted in the introduction of the manifesto where parties list their general priorities for the election? This would make it a major topic in the manifesto. Secondly, is NSE mentioned early and extensively in the chapter that deals with labour market policy? This would make it a major labour market policy topic. If mentioned but less prominently and less extensively, it is a minor labour market policy issue. In addition, we compare the relative emphasis on NSE vis-à-vis unemployment in the labour market chapter.3 3 Unemployment has not been systematically coded for the entire electoral programmes. This would have added considerably to the coding complexity as unemployment can be referred to in many ways, e.g. it matters also in economic policies for boosting growth and employment. Instead, we checked for emphasis on unemployment within the labour market policy chapters of manifestos. The coding distinguishes between NSE in a strict sense and more general notions of precarious and low-quality work. We define NSE as those types of dependent employment that deviate from full-time, permanent contracts under direct employer supervision. Main forms include fixed-term contracts, part-time employment and temporary agency work.4 4 Part-time employment often has less problematic socio-economic implications than e.g. fixed-term contracts, especially when voluntarily working part-time, when hours and pay are not extremely low, and when fully integrated into social insurance. For this study there is no need to draw an a priori distinction. Rather, we check empirically to what extent part-time work is characterized as deprived or desirable. However, our analysis remains flexible regarding other, often country-specific types of atypical employment. Our coverage of four major country cases in a qualitative, detailed analysis is a considerable advantage of our research design. The amount of work and the language skills this requires come at the expense of covering more years, a wider range of sources or additional countries. The empirical insights into the party politics of new labour market divides in these four large European states constitute a notable contribution to a literature that has extensively covered labour market changes and micro-level preferences but less the role of political parties. 5. Case studies Given space constraints, we present a brief overview of the labour market, party system and party positions regarding NSE in each country in order to then focus on the comparative discussion. A more extensive account of our findings by party can be found in the Online Appendix. 5.1 Spain Spain has an extremely high incidence of temporary work relative to other European countries. It stood at roughly one-third of total employment in the 1990s and most of the 2000s, but fell more recently as temporary workers were laid off in the crisis (Table 1). The heavily regulated labour market of the Franco era was liberalized asymmetrically in the mid-1980s: dismissal protection remained untouched while it became easier for employers to use fixed-term contracts (Dolado et al., 2002; Marx and Picot, 2014). This provided employers with flexibility in workforce numbers in spite of high hurdles to laying off staff in unlimited contracts. As a result, temporary work boomed (Polavieja, 2006). Since the mid-1990s various governments have tried to limit the two-tier character of the Spanish labour market. One of the more ambitious attempts took place in 2006, under the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, when financial incentives for assuming fixed-term workers in open-ended contracts were strengthened. However, this and similar reforms had no visible effect on aggregate temporary employment (Malo, 2011, pp. 23–30). The share of fixed-term contracts dropped considerably after 2007 due to the burst real estate bubble and economic crisis, as firms chose to reduce payrolls by not renewing fixed-term contracts. At the same time, unemployment surged from 11% in election year 2008 to 22% during the election in 2011. The share of part-time work, by contrast, is moderate (13% in 2011), although it had risen continuously over the 1990s and 2000s. Table 1. Labour market conditions in elections years   Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3    Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3  Note: Temporary and part-time employment are in % of dependent employment. Unemployment is in % of civilian labour force. Source: OECD (2015). Table 1. Labour market conditions in elections years   Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3    Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3  Note: Temporary and part-time employment are in % of dependent employment. Unemployment is in % of civilian labour force. Source: OECD (2015). Three main parties formed the Spanish party system after transition to democracy. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) on the centre-left was dominant in terms of vote shares and government office over the 1980s and mid-1990s. In the 1990s, the main centre-right party, the Popular Party (PP), caught up in the polls, leading to a bipolar party system. The United Left (IU) stands to the left of PSOE. Although rarely reaching more than 10% of votes in national elections, IU has traditionally constituted an electoral and parliamentary competitor for the PSOE. In 2014, after the last election covered in this article, the rise of left-wing populist party Podemos and liberal centre-right Ciudadanos shook the established three-party system. There is evidence that temporary workers support IU more often relative to workers in open-ended contracts (Marx and Picot, 2014). Table 2 provides an overview of party positions regarding NSE in Spain. To facilitate interpretation, parties are listed from top to bottom according to their position on an economic left–right dimension. This reveals that positions on NSE are in fact structured by the left–right dimension. All three parties address NSE, but it is a major topic only for IU and PSOE. While all parties share a concern about high levels of unemployment, the main focus in the manifesto chapters on labour market policy is in fact on NSE. Remarkably, the PSOE in 2008 put forward an explicit numerical target, by promising to reduce the rate of temporary employment to 25%. Similarly, IU proposed in 2008 a plan ‘to end the process of sustained precarization of [the Spanish] labour market’ (IU 2008, Section 2). IU also most strongly framed NSE negatively. Given the extent of temporary employment, it is hardly surprising that even the PP acknowledged the problem. Still, PSOE and PP highlighted advantages of other forms of NSE, such as part-time. In terms of proposed policies, the IU stressed above all re-regulation of NSE. The PSOE followed a similar line, along with social protection for atypical workers. In contrast, PP preferred deregulating standard employment in order to decrease labour market segmentation. Overall, party positions conform to traditional partisan politics theory. In addition, the strong criticism by the far-left IU coincides with its status as a challenger party, as would be expected by arguments on issue competition. The surge in unemployment during the crisis did not draw attention away from NSE. If anything, salience of NSE slightly increased (in the case of PP). After all, the two phenomena were related as widespread job losses suffered by temporary workers contributed to the rise in unemployment. Table 2. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Spain     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2011. Table 2. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Spain     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2011. 5.2 France Like in Spain, temporary employment in France is used by employers to gain numerical workforce flexibility, given tight regulation of standard employment. Time-limited work contracts were regulated through the courts until legislation was introduced in 1979 (Marx, 2012). In both election years, 2007 and 2012, the share of temporary employment stood at 15% of employment and the share of part-time employment at 14%. While shares of NSE remained stable during the crisis, unemployment went up marginally from 8 to 9% between 2007 and 2012 (Table 1). Gash (2008) shows that temporary workers in France have a low chance of moving into permanent jobs and a high chance of becoming unemployed. Until the 1980s the French party system was neatly divided into a right and a left bloc. The right bloc traditionally comprised two or more conservative parties. In 2002, three of these parties merged and formed the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP, renamed Republicans in May 2015). The left bloc traditionally comprised the Socialist Party (PS) and the French Communist Party (PCF). The 1980s brought significant change to the party system. Particularly salient was the rise of the right-wing populist National Front (FN). On the left, the Communists weakened and a left-libertarian party, the Greens, slowly emerged. This introduced a second dimension of libertarian versus authoritarian positions, represented by the Greens and FN, respectively. In 2007, a new centre party appeared, the Democratic Movement (MoDem), headed by presidential candidate François Bayrou. The distribution of party positions regarding NSE in France again reflects an economic left–right dimension (Table 3). Although all parties frame NSE negatively, the far left places most emphasis on the issue, with attention declining towards the right. Among left parties, NSE was more salient than unemployment (though this weakened in 2012). Among right parties, unemployment was more emphasized than NSE. Proposed solutions also differ across the political spectrum. The PS demands greater reregulation (especially in 2007) and incentives to hire new workers on standard contracts (especially in 2012). The UMP, by contrast, favoured the introduction of a unitary contract, which implies a deregulation of dismissal protection together with a re-regulation of temporary employment. The differentiation of the party system along a libertarian–authoritarian dimension is also apparent. While the PCF demands mostly re-regulation of NSE, the more libertarian Greens stress the need for better social protection. The authoritarian FN stands out by mentioning precariousness in a broader criticism of globalization, and by proposing reindustrialization, which caters to blue-collar workers who often have permanent jobs but feel threatened by international competition. Hence, while the overall left–right distribution in terms of attention to the issue confirms the expectations from traditional partisan theory, the positions of the Greens and FN are in line with research on electoral realignment. The opposition PS’ attention to NSE conforms to arguments on issue competition, as does that of the small PCF/FDG. The moderate rise in unemployment did not diminish the importance of NSE as an electoral issue. Table 3. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in France     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2007 and 2010 for 2012 (therefore, FDG and MoDem are based on their predecessors PCF and UDF respectively). Table 3. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in France     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2007 and 2010 for 2012 (therefore, FDG and MoDem are based on their predecessors PCF and UDF respectively). 5.3 Germany The German labour market combines strong regulation for core workers with flexibility at the margin (Eichhorst and Marx, 2011; Marx and Picot, 2014). In the 2000s, marginal part-time employment (so-called ‘minijobs’) boomed in the service sector, having been deregulated in 2003 as part of the so-called Hartz reforms. Temporary agency work increased in many manufacturing firms, but overall numbers are much lower than minijobs. Fixed-term contracts have successively been deregulated since the mid-1980s. The most recent deregulation was part of the Hartz reforms. Nevertheless, fixed-term employment grew only modestly. Its share of total employment stood at 13% in 2013 (slightly down from 15% in 2009). Part-time work, including minijobs, is more substantial, at 23% of employment. The German labour market quickly overcame the Great Recession so that between 2009 and 2013 unemployment fell from 8% to 5% (Table 1). For most of the post-war period, West Germany was characterized by a three-party system, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) being the main competing parties, joined by the smaller Liberals (FDP). The 1980s saw the rise of the Green party. After reunification in 1990, the post-socialist PDS became an important player in East Germany. Debate around the Hartz reforms in the early 2000s led a group of left-wing Social Democrats to split off from the SPD and merge with the PDS under the name Die Linke. This helped to increase votes in West Germany. In the 2009 and 2013 elections, Germany thus had a five-party system.5 5 The recent success of ‘Alternative for Germany’ points to the possible rise of a right-wing populist party. In its first federal election, 2013, it got 4.7% of the vote, only narrowly failing to enter the Bundestag. Research shows that non-standard workers in Germany more often (relative to standard workers) support the Greens and Die Linke (Marx and Picot, 2013). Table 4 reveals that the manifesto statements on NSE are again structured by economic left–right positions. All parties address NSE to some extent, but left parties pay more attention to it and frame it negatively, while the political right portrays it more positively. Most German manifestos emphasize unemployment slightly more as a problem, but the actual discussion of policies focuses more on issues related to NSE. In terms of policy proposals, CDU/CSU and FDP favour deregulation of NSE (or modest re-regulation in the case of CDU/CSU in 2013). In contrast, parties on the left demand re-regulation, but with interesting nuances. Die Linke and SPD accompany their attention to NSE with demands close to insider interests, such as maintaining or extending employment protection of standard contracts and strengthening worker co-determination. This is not the case in the Green manifestos. Moreover, while Die Linke almost exclusively demanded re-regulation, Greens and SPD in 2013 stressed better social protection alongside re-regulation. The Green party placed major emphasis on NSE as a social problem already in 2009, before other parties did. The pattern in Germany is, therefore, broadly in line with traditional partisan theory, but differentiations between left parties reflect post-industrial electoral realignment. The more radical approach to NSE by Die Linke is consistent with issue competition arguments, as is the SPD’s shift to more emphasis on NSE when it was in opposition in 2013. In Germany, declining unemployment went along with increased attention to NSE as the focus shifted from unemployment to quality of employment. Table 4. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Germany     Note: Shaded cells indicate incumbents at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1-10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2009 and 2010 for 2013. Table 4. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Germany     Note: Shaded cells indicate incumbents at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1-10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2009 and 2010 for 2013. 5.4 Italy Italian standard workers in large manufacturing firms attained strong employment protection and generous welfare entitlements in the 1970s. The 1990s and early 2000s saw progressive liberalization of NSE, especially project work and fixed-term contracts (Berton et al., 2012), such as the controversial 2003 Biagi reform adopted by a right-wing government. The reforms facilitated a rapidly rising share of temporary workers, even if since the late 2000s it stabilized around the West European average (see Table 1). The share of part-time work has also risen and is high in international comparison (20% in 2013). Unemployment protection is strongly segmented in Italy and often insufficient for non-standard workers (Berton et al., 2012; Picot, 2012). Overall, these developments have led to precarious labour (lavoro precario) being a frequent term in public debate, normally understood in terms of NSE. There is evidence that precariousness affects political behaviour (Corbetta and Colloca, 2013). The Italian party system has been in almost continuous change since the early 1990s. In the 2008 and 2013 elections the two largest parties were the Democratic Party (PD) on the centre-left and the People of Freedom (PdL) on the centre-right. To the left of the PD, the Rainbow Left (SA) stood for election in 2008 and Left Ecology Liberty (SEL) in 2013. The former was an electoral coalition of three small radical left-wing parties and the Greens. The latter comprises the more left-libertarian constituents of SA but continues to have strong traditional ideological roots compared to the Green parties in France and Germany.6 6 SA received 3.1% in 2008, winning no seats, and SEL 3.2% in 2013, winning 37 seats in the lower house due to its electoral coalition with the PD. By including SA and SEL we make an exception from the rule of including only parties with at least 5% of the votes in at least one of the two elections. This is because the radical left was a small but relevant part of the new Italian party system since the early 1990s, often in alliance with the PD (or its predecessors). In the centre are smaller government-oriented parties such as the Christian-democratic Union of the Centre (UDC) and the Civic Choice (SC) founded by Mario Monti. To the right of PdL stands the regionalist, right-wing populist Northern League (LN). Finally, since 2009 the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) has risen to national relevance. Its anti-establishment platform and electoral success have placed corruption, party funding and reform of political institutions on the national agenda, which is reflected in all parties’ 2013 electoral manifestos. Table 5 summarizes our findings for Italy, which again show a clear left–right distribution. The small, radical left-wing parties, SA and SEL, are most outspoken on NSE. Precarious work is a major topic and strongly framed as a social calamity. All other parties surprisingly treat NSE only as one among other labour market topics. Still, most parties put at least as much emphasis on NSE as on unemployment. The framing of NSE follows a left-right distribution as well. Most parties see NSE as problematic, but towards the right the framing is less explicit or mixed with positive aspects. Also typical in terms of left-right distribution is the emphasis by SA/SEL on re-regulation of NSE, whereas PdL (jointly with LN) supports deregulation. While this corroborates traditional partisan theory, there is also evidence backing post-industrial realignment theory. The more left-libertarian SEL focuses less on general labour demands and more on NSE-specific proposals such as better social protection than its predecessor, the more traditional SA. A similar contrast can be seen between the more modernist PD manifesto of 2008 (when Walter Veltroni headed the party), addressing NSE more specifically, and the more traditional 2013 manifesto (under Pier Luigi Bersani), committed to labour in general. In the electoral programme of M5S NSE was only a minor issue. Table 5. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Italy     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbents in 2008 and the parties supporting the technical government until the election 2013. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2013 (for 2008 SA, PD, and PdL are based on the vote share weighted average of their main two predecessors: RC and Verdi for SA, DS and DL for PD, AN and FI for PdL). Table 5. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Italy     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbents in 2008 and the parties supporting the technical government until the election 2013. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2013 (for 2008 SA, PD, and PdL are based on the vote share weighted average of their main two predecessors: RC and Verdi for SA, DS and DL for PD, AN and FI for PdL). Issue competition may contribute to explaining why the PD was not more vocal about NSE, as, beyond its incumbency in 2008, it was a key part of the parliamentary majority for the technocratic Monti government in 2013. The rise in unemployment between 2008 and 2013 went along with slightly decreased attention to NSE (by SEL and PdL). Yet, this was arguably unrelated to labour market developments, as M5S had forcefully pushed political institutions and regulation of political parties to the top of the electoral agenda. 6. Comparative discussion Prior to this study, the extent to which political parties address NSE in electoral campaigns was mostly unknown. Our results show that it is in fact a clearly visible topic in the four major West European states analysed. Of the 35 manifestos, it was a major topic in 11, a major topic within the labour market chapter in 12, and only a minor topic in the labour market chapter in another 12. In none of them was the topic not raised at all. The next major objective of this article was to analyse variation across parties. The literature in this respect generates varying expectations: traditional partisan theory expects all left-wing parties to address and criticize the phenomenon; insider–outsider theory holds that left parties cater to labour market insiders or, at best, are confronted by a dilemma between insider and outsider interests; and post-industrial realignment research predicts left-libertarian parties to care about NSE. Left parties in our four states fall into three categories: left-socialist, left-libertarian and social democratic. First, each country had a small left-socialist party in the period of analysis: IU in Spain, PCF/FDG in France, Die Linke in Germany and SA/SEL in Italy. These voice strong, categorical criticism of NSE as precarious. The main countermeasure they propose is to re-regulate NSE. This policy solution often also speaks to concerns by labour market insiders, for example, when Die Linke framed NSE in terms of ‘low-cost competition’ (Die Linke, 2013, p. 6). Secondly, the Green parties in France and Germany can be categorized as left-libertarian. In Germany, the Greens made NSE one of the main topics of their manifestos before other parties did. The French Greens did not put NSE at the forefront of their agenda to the same extent, but emphasized it within their labour market chapter. Both parties stressed more than others the need for better social protection of non-standard workers. This policy directly and unambiguously supports atypical employees while raising costs for standard workers (in form of taxes or social insurance contributions). Thirdly, each country in our sample has a major centre-left party that can be loosely described as social democratic: PSOE in Spain, PS in France, SPD in Germany and PD in Italy. Here, emphasis and criticism of NSE is expressed more mutedly than among the smaller left-wing parties. Also, there is some variation that can tentatively be accounted for by socio-economic context and issue competition. In Spain, the incidence of temporary employment was so high that the PSOE had little choice but to make it a core issue. In France, the PS’s role as opposition party and the persistence of NSE help explain its salience in the manifestos. In Germany, greater attention to NSE by the SPD came during opposition and against a backdrop of relatively low unemployment. Finally, the relatively low attention the PD dedicated to NSE may be explained by its (semi-)governmental responsibility. Among all other parties, centrist and right-wing, none raised NSE as a major topic of their overall electoral programme. In 10 out of 15 non-left manifestos analysed, it was only a minor issue within their labour market chapters. While here we find more often positive evaluations of NSE, still 7 out of 15 mostly presented NSE as problematic. Often, a good example being the Spanish PP, the problem is framed in terms of labour market segmentation and used to denounce protective legislation for standard employment. It is useful to consider how moderate or radical non-left parties are on the socio-economic political dimension. The self-avowed centrist parties, MoDem in France and UDC in Italy, put little emphasis on the issue and took cautious positions. By contrast, the economically most right-wing parties had a clear stance. Thus, the German FDP is the only party that consistently praised the advantages of NSE and demanded further deregulation, and the Spanish PP used NSE to attack labour rights generally. The more moderate, large centre-right parties took more nuanced positions regarding NSE. The Italian PdL mostly supported the deregulated status quo, but proposed to supplement it with incentives for hiring in open-ended contracts. The German CDU took a mostly positive view of NSE in 2009, but shifted to acknowledging the need for some reregulation in 2013. Finally, the French UMP supported the idea of a ‘unitary contract’, combining deregulation of standard employment with re-regulation of NSE. The more drastic position of PP can, apart from ideology, be explained by its opposition status and the size of the problem in Spain. The right-wing populist FN stands out among right-wing parties by demanding to rein in globalization and revive manufacturing, thus catering to blue-collar workers in sectors exposed to international competition. Non-standard work received little attention from FN. In sum, attention to NSE, its framing, and, in some respects, the policy proposals follow a left-right distribution, where far-left parties are most concerned about NSE and criticize it in stronger terms. Economically right-wing parties tend to pay less attention to NSE and more often frame it positively—though not always, largely depending on the incidence of NSE. Further, re-regulation of NSE is commonly demanded on the left of the political spectrum, whereas deregulation of standard employment is often proposed on the right. So far, these findings conform to expectations derived from traditional partisan theory. Yet, left-wing parties differ in their policy proposals regarding NSE as well as how they bundle various labour issues. This variation can be accounted for by post-industrial realignment theory. Left-libertarian parties address NSE more in its own right and more often propose improvements in access to social protection. By contrast, other left-wing parties tend to bundle NSE with working class issues more broadly and prioritize re-regulating NSE, which is more easily in line with insider interests by limiting ‘low-cost’ competition and avoiding the costs of extended social protection. Also in line with post-industrial realignment research, the right-wing populist FN tends to neglect the issue of NSE and focuses on protecting blue-collar workers from international competition. As our findings are mostly in line with traditional partisan theory as well as post-industrial realignment research, what does this imply for insider–outsider theory? Counter to this theory, there is little indication in electoral manifestos that left parties do not care about non-standard work. However, this needs to be qualified by three considerations. First, left-party attention to NSE is often linked to insider concerns. In a few instances, we found that left-party worries about rising NSE are motivated by fear of downward pressure on wages and entitlements of standard workers. Moreover, traditional left-wing parties often bundle NSE with other labour demands such as maintaining dismissal protection. The interests of non-standard workers are thus addressed less in their own right and policy solutions may be subject to what they imply for the core workforce. Secondly, there is of course a potential gap between promise and practice. While left parties criticize precarious employment, it is possible that in practice they prioritize employment security of labour market insiders when push comes to shove. The distinction between electoral claims and actual reform decisions calls for careful analysis of reform processes in further research. Thirdly, party positions may have changed over time, especially as NSE continued to expand. Insider–outsider theory may hold for labour market reforms from the 1980s to mid-2000s. But since then social democratic parties have faced increased pressure to acknowledge that NSE is often precarious and lasting rather than a stepping-stone to stable employment.7 7 We have examined the manifestos of SPD and PSOE also for two elections prior to the ones covered in this article. The SPD shifted from a positive to a negative framing of NSE, which conforms to the idea above. PSOE strongly criticized precarious employment already in 2000 but temporarily swung back to a more benevolent perspective in 2004. Research indicates that some centre-left parties have in recent years deregulated dismissal protection while improving the protection of non-standard workers (Picot and Tassinari, 2017). While we find a general pattern in how different party families address NSE, issue competition and socio-economic conditions can help to account for some of the remaining variation. From the perspective of issue competition, opposition parties and smaller parties have incentives to take up a new and potentially divisive issue. In some cases, the incumbent or opposition status of major centre-left parties seems to have played a role in their positioning regarding NSE (for instance, as apparent in the difference in emphasis on NSE by SPD between 2009 and 2013, and the difference between PS and PD in spite of similar levels of NSE). The far-left parties that are most vocal about NSE have incentives to do so by virtue of being small, opposition parties (except SA in Italy 2008). Yet other small, opposition parties (MoDem, FN, FDP, UDC or M5S) have not addressed NSE to the same extent. This suggests that ideology is more important than challenger status. Finally, in terms of socio-economic conditions and specifically the impact of the economic crisis, the rise of unemployment in Spain, France and Italy did not diminish the salience of NSE. Given its high incidence, attention to NSE was already high, especially among left parties, before the crisis. Rising unemployment was linked to job losses by temporary workers, which underlined the precariousness of many non-standard jobs. In Spain, if anything, the salience of NSE slightly increased due to the crisis. In Italy it slightly declined, but this was associated with reform of political institutions having been pushed to the top of the agenda. While rising unemployment, if anything, further increased the salience of NSE, in Germany falling unemployment also led to higher attention to NSE as the focus shifted from unemployment to quality of employment. Fully accounting for the relationship between unemployment trends and changes in political salience of NSE is beyond the scope of this study. However, our evidence suggests that in these four states the incidence of NSE has reached a level where its political salience is to some extent independent of unemployment. 7. Conclusion This is the first study to systematically identify party positions on NSE across four large European states and the entire political spectrum. Existing literature generates conflicting expectations on whether NSE would emerge at all as an electoral issue and, if so, which parties would push the issue on the agenda. Against this background, our article provides important new insights. NSE is indeed a clearly visible electoral topic in the largest Continental and Southern European states. Far-left parties criticize the rise of NSE most loudly but left-libertarian parties address the interests of non-standard workers more specifically than other left-wing parties. This is in line with traditional partisan politics theory as well as with research on electoral realignment, but less so with insider–outsider theory (see discussion above). Our article makes four contributions. First, it contributes to a better understanding of the politics of new labour market divides. For four major European countries we show where parties stand regarding new and often disadvantaged forms of employment. Our findings that small left-wing parties are most vocal about NSE and that left-libertarian parties address the issue most specifically are in line with research showing that non-standard workers more often support these parties (e.g. Marx and Picot, 2013; Marx, 2015). Hence, there is an intriguing congruence between micro- and party-level results. Secondly, our research adds evidence that precarious work is becoming politicized. Not only does it matter for citizens’ preference formation (as shown by previous research), but it is also taken up by political parties in their electoral campaigns. Thirdly, this article shows that labour market transformations in post-industrial societies are reflected in changing party systems. The ‘socio-cultural’ (second) dimension of European party systems also has implications for socio-economic policy positions (cf. Häusermann, 2010). Fourthly, our results are reassuring regarding the responsiveness of representative democracy when a new social issue arises. There are several ways in which this research should be advanced in the future. Apart from extending it to more country cases, more research of reform processes is needed to distinguish between electoral claims and actual reform decisions. Studies should also reach further back in time to explore the evolution of the topic. Supplementary material Supplementary material is available at Socio-Economic Review online. Acknowledgements Earlier versions of this research were presented at: Annual Meeting APSA 2015 in San Francisco, Democracy and Elections Research Group University of Manchester, International Conference of Europeanists 2014 in Washington DC, Annual Conference of SASE 2013 in Milan, Nuffield College Political Science Seminar, Nuffield College Postdoc Seminar, Research Group on Politics of Social Policy at the Oxford Institute of Social Policy, ECPR Joint Sessions 2013 in Mainz and Social Policy Research Workshop 2012 in Lund. We thank all participants for their comments, in particular Lucy Barnes, Desmond King, Johannes Lindvall, Line Rennwald and Hanna Schwander. We are particularly grateful to Paul Marx for repeated feedback and helpful discussions around this topic. Finally, we thank the reviewers and the editor for their constructive input. Funding We gratefully acknowledge funding from the John Fell Oxford University Press Research Fund. 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Political parties and non-standard employment: an analysis of France, Germany, Italy and Spain

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Abstract

Abstract Recent research has shown that new labour market divides resulting from the rise of non-standard employment (NSE) are reflected in the political preferences of the workers affected. Yet, our knowledge of the stance of political parties on the issue is extremely limited, even descriptively. Do they address NSE in the context of election campaigns—if so, which parties do? How do they frame non-standard work and what policies do they propose? The article tackles these questions by analysing party programmes in four large Continental and Southern Europe states where NSE is widespread and poorly integrated into the systems of social protection. We find that attention to and criticism of non-standard work follows a left–right distribution, but we also find differences within the left: left-libertarian parties address the issue more specifically, while more traditional left-wing parties often link it to other labour concerns. 1. Introduction Labour markets in developed countries are changing. One salient phenomenon is the expansion of non-standard forms of employment (dependent employment that diverges from full-time, unlimited employment), such as fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, and part-time work, often associated with higher insecurity and lower pay. In Western Europe (EU15), the share of employees in temporary employment has risen from about 7% in the early 1980s to 14% in 2014. Similarly, part-time employment has risen from 12% to 19% (OECD, 2015). This poses dilemmas for party systems built on an industrial class structure where the representation of interests regarding the world of labour was clear: left parties representing labour as a whole, right parties representing middle and upper classes. How does this pattern of representation respond to the rise of non-standard employment (NSE)? After all, the latter introduces new divisions in terms of security and flexibility of labour (Rueda, 2007). Some workers continue to be relatively well protected by existing policies, while others are much more exposed to fluctuations in demand for labour. Scholars have in fact found that non-standard workers differ in their political preferences (e.g. Häusermann et al., 2015; Marx, 2015). This makes it paramount to ask how these interests are represented in the political system. Are they neglected, which may give rise to alienation, or are they voiced by political parties and, if so, by which? Research so far has done little to provide empirical responses to these questions. Related literature implies conflicting hypotheses, but there is no direct empirical research on this topic. Existing comparative data sets (such as Comparative Manifestos Project) do not contain items specific enough for this purpose. By thoroughly examining party positions in a sample of four large European welfare states, we shed light on an issue that is of importance to research on the political implications of recent labour market change (e.g. King and Rueda, 2008) as well as to research on changing party systems (e.g. Kitschelt, 1994; Kriesi et al., 2008). This article examines whether and how political parties approach NSE in an electoral context. To what extent do they take non-standard workers into account when making campaign promises? After deriving expectations from pertinent theories in political economy and comparative politics, we examine party positions in a sample of four large countries in Continental and Southern Europe where NSE is extensive. We analyse the electoral manifestos of all sizeable parties over two elections in terms of whether they explicitly address NSE, how they frame it and what policies they propose. Although we discuss the theoretical implications of our findings with respect to the existing literature, this is first and foremost a descriptive analysis that enhances our knowledge independently of a causal argument (Gerring, 2012). Given the lack of previous research and available data, we analyse primary sources qualitatively. Conducting this research for four major West European states and two elections each, constitutes a notable empirical contribution. Our research speaks to a number of debates. First, by analysing political parties we complement the focus on individual-level preferences prevalent in the more recent literature on the politics of new labour market divides (e.g. Häusermann et al., 2015; Marx, 2015), which is in turn related to the broader discussion of welfare state dualization (Emmenegger et al., 2012). Secondly, by improving our knowledge of parties’ stances on NSE, we contribute to a better understanding of the politicization of new labour market divides. Thirdly, our results have implications for research on changing party systems (Kitschelt, 1994; Kriesi et al., 2008), as we find that the second, ‘socio-cultural’, dimension of European party systems reflects recent labour market transformations. Fourthly, the findings of this article provide some indication of the responsiveness of representative democracy with respect to the rise of a new social issue, i.e. inferior employment contracts that increasing numbers of workers are forced to accept. The next section discusses the literature on the politics of new labour market divides, followed by theoretical considerations regarding policies affecting NSE. Subsequently, we present the research design. The empirical analysis first summarizes the findings by country and then moves on to a comparative discussion. A final section concludes. 2. Literature on the politics of new labour market divides NSE has been a major topic in comparative political economy since the early 2000s (cf. Kalleberg, 2000; Hipp et al., 2015). A more recent strand of this literature studies the new labour market divides from a political perspective, focusing on how they affect preferences at the individual level. NSE has been shown to increase subjective economic insecurity and lead to distinct policy preferences (Burgoon and Dekker, 2010). Non-standard workers display stronger support for active labour market policies, but also for redistribution and more egalitarian social policies (Marx, 2015; Häusermann et al., 2015). Preferences for political parties are also affected by labour market status. Marx and Picot (2013) show that non-standard workers in Germany are more than standard workers inclined towards the Greens as well as the small left-socialist ‘Die Linke’. Looking at Sweden, Lindvall and Rueda (2014) find that the party preferences of labour market outsiders are shaped by party positions on employment policy. In a comparative study, Marx and Picot (2014) reveal that political differences between fixed-term and permanently employed workers depend on the degree of labour market segmentation. Nevertheless, pooling survey data from 17 European countries, Marx (2015) finds that temporary workers are clearly more likely to support Green parties and somewhat more likely to support far-left parties, compared to workers in unlimited employment. Other contributions have further advanced this strand of research by deploying panel data, investigating different mechanisms through which labour market disadvantage affects political preferences, and applying theoretical concepts from research on economic voting (Emmenegger et al., 2015; Marx, 2016). Studies that distinguish between the unemployed and non-standard workers show that the two groups differ in their electoral behaviour. While the jobless tend to be alienated from electoral politics, non-standard employees show no signs of participating less than labour market insiders (Marx and Picot, 2013; Corbetta and Colloca, 2013; Marx, 2015). This further supports the case for examining NSE as an electoral issue since non-standard workers vote as actively as those in standard employment. The existing results on political preferences of non-standard workers are consistent across studies. Corbetta and Colloca (2013) find only weak evidence of differences in party preferences between temporary and regular workers. However, they divide party preferences into a left and a right block, hence not allowing for preferences to differ between parties within each block, which other studies show is relevant. Moreover, wherever the unemployed and non-standard workers are distinguished the differences between the two groups are consistent. Rovny and Rovny (2017) find different results for the electoral preferences of outsiders depending on operationalization. Yet, most operationalizations they use combine non-standard workers and the unemployed. Their results when using a more differentiated operationalization by labour market status bolster the notion that such distinctions are pertinent.1 1 Counter to the studies cited above, Rovny and Rovny (2017) find that temporary workers are more likely, relative to labour market insiders, to abstain from voting. Overall, existing individual-level studies show that the economic disadvantage associated with NSE translates into distinct party preferences. This suggests that some political parties offer positions that appeal to non-standard workers. While Lindvall and Rueda (2014) as well as Marx and Picot (2013) take this into account, to the best of our knowledge no study has examined specifically to what extent and which political parties address NSE as an electoral issue. At the end of his extensive study, finding preferences of temporary workers for Green (i.e. ‘new left’) parties, Marx (2015, p. 118) points out: ‘Future research should document empirically whether the new left really advocates more outsider-friendly social policies’. Our article responds to this query, but goes beyond just one party family and investigates the entire party spectrum. Thus, we supplement the micro-focus of the literature with much-needed research at the party-level. Even though most existing literature is not explicitly concerned with party positions on NSE, important theoretical strands in comparative political economy yield conflicting implications in this regard. First, traditional partisan theory holds that left parties represent the working class as a whole and, if in government, adopt policies in favour of labour interests, such as generous social policies (for an overview and references, see Häusermann et al., 2013). This view would lead us to expect that left parties represent and defend also the interests of non-standard workers. Secondly, this has been challenged by insider–outsider theory, which claims that whenever the interests of labour market insiders and outsiders diverge, social democratic parties represent the interests of the former (e.g. Rueda, 2005, 2007). Indeed, no party is expected to clearly address the interests of outsiders, defined as the unemployed and most categories of non-standard workers, due to their low electoral participation (according to most studies, see above, this applies to the unemployed but not to non-standard workers). Conservative and liberal parties may address outsider interests to the extent that they present dismissal protection as hindering outsider access to stable jobs (Rueda, 2005, p. 62). Communist parties are expected to be strongly pro-insider, and Christian democrats are seen as somewhat insider-oriented but not as much as social democrats (Rueda, 2005, p. 67). A later refinement of this approach has highlighted that insider–outsider divides in the labour market constitute, above all, a dilemma for social-democratic parties (Lindvall and Rueda, 2014). When they turn to insider and middle-class interests they lose the outsider vote to the left. When they turn to outsider interests they lose the insider and middle class vote in the centre. Thirdly, research on electoral realignment in post-industrial societies has questioned the electoral assumptions of insider–outsider theory (e.g. Kitschelt, 1994; Häusermann, 2010;). This view posits that left-libertarian parties (such as Green parties or modernized social democrats) are sensitive to new distributional issues such as NSE. There are four reasons why this may be the case in spite of Green parties being seemingly focused on non-economic issues (Marx, 2015, pp. 43–44): (a) For the most part of their history these parties have in fact taken economically left-wing positions, drawing attention to the worse off in capitalist societies (Kitschelt, 1988). (b) Being smaller left-wing parties, just like small far-left parties, they are able to attract those who are disappointed by the major centre-left parties. (c) In contrast to traditional left-wing parties, they have no longstanding link with the labour movement, which otherwise may associate them with insider-oriented demands such as dismissal protection. (d) Due to their commitment to minority and women’s interests, they tend to favour universalist social policies, which are more accessible to non-standard workers with unstable employment careers. Lastly, in a related but distinct trend of electoral realignment, right-wing populist parties increasingly attract support from blue-collar workers (Bornschier and Kriesi, 2013), that is, from workers that often have permanent, full-time jobs. The above theories—traditional partisan politics, insider–outsider theory and post-industrial electoral alignment—have different and conflicting implications for the positions political parties take on NSE. It may seem straightforward to think of NSE as ‘a left-wing topic’, in line with partisan politics theory. But in its simpler interpretation, insider–outsider theory actually predicts this not to be the case. In its more nuanced version, it is still seen as a dilemma. Moreover, in the light of recent voter realignments there are important differences between left-wing parties, and left-libertarian parties are seen as more likely to address NSE concerns. Lastly, the literature has focused attention on left-wing parties. Yet, even if NSE is a policy problem taken up by the left, what is the stance of other political parties? Do they ignore the issue? Or do they actively support the expansion of NSE? 3. Theoretical considerations: policies affecting non-standard employment In order to investigate parties’ stances on NSE, we need to consider which policies are relevant and what they imply for non-standard workers. Many policies potentially affect NSE, but the most relevant are: unemployment benefits, regulation of NSE and regulation of dismissal protection of standard employment. What are the interests of non-standard workers regarding these policies and how do they compare to those of standard workers? We follow existing literature and assume that standard and non-standard workers differ mainly in their (in)stability of employment (Rueda 2007; Häusermann et al. 2015). Broadly, standard workers care most about stability of employment and work conditions, while non-standard workers are most likely to be concerned about unemployment and access to stable jobs. First, regarding unemployment benefits the expected preferences of both groups are clear. Non-standard workers tend to have a higher risk of unemployment and face specific challenges to access unemployment compensation. Sometimes their contract types are not covered by existing schemes. In other cases, unstable careers and low salaries lead to insufficient contribution records if benefit entitlement is strongly based on insurance principles (e.g. Grimshaw and Rubery, 1997; Berton et al., 2012). Therefore, more generous, more universal and less insurance-based benefit entitlements are clearly better for non-standard workers. By contrast, given their more stable jobs and longer contribution records, standard workers are less likely to need unemployment benefits and more likely to be already covered by them. Moreover, they would have to pay for expanded entitlement through their taxes or social contributions. Secondly, NSE regulation sets the conditions under which employers can hire workers on non-standard contracts. Strict regulation can reduce this type of employment or improve its conditions. It is likely that non-standard workers welcome legal constraints on bad employment conditions. On the other hand, re-regulation may hinder employment growth by limiting employers’ flexibility. However, such indirect effects are unlikely to be the first consideration of workers in precarious jobs. Standard workers may benefit from the existence of an NSE segment as a flexibility buffer, because non-standard workers tend to be among the first to suffer the consequences of economic downturns (Rueda, 2007, pp. 21–22). Yet, standard workers may feel at risk of being laid off as well and face the prospect of having to accept a precarious job. In addition, the secondary labour market tier can exert downward pressure on wages and job conditions in the primary tier. Hence, it is well possible that, like non-standard workers, labour market insiders also prefer stronger regulation of NSE (Marx, 2015, pp. 38–40). Thirdly, strict dismissal protection most obviously benefits those in standard jobs. Its implications for non-standard workers are less straightforward. While firing costs may prevent employers from hiring additional staff in standard jobs, non-standard workers get no immediate benefit from lower employment security of standard workers, and lower employment security may make the objective of obtaining such jobs less attractive for NSE workers (Emmenegger, 2009; Marx, 2015). Research on individual-level preferences backs the considerations above. Compared to standard employees, non-standard workers tend to be more supportive of redistribution but less supportive of strongly insurance-based entitlements (Häusermann et al., 2015). Moreover, temporary workers are mostly against deregulating dismissal protection (though in some countries not as strongly as standard workers; Marx, 2015, pp. 59–70). The discussion above implies that the most distinctive party position to address the interests of non-standard workers is to widen the eligibility of unemployment benefits. A policy that may appeal to non-standard as well as standard workers is to re-regulate NSE. Demanding a deregulation of standard employment can be presented as facilitating hiring in standard jobs, but it is doubtful that this is appreciated by non-standard workers. Other policies that can be relevant for NSE are entitlement rules for old-age pensions, fiscal incentives to hire workers on permanent contracts, Active Labour Market Programmes (ALMPs, due to non-standard workers’ higher risk of unemployment) or minimum wages (as non-standard workers are more often low-paid). Yet, these are not as immediately relevant as the three policies above. To reduce complexity, our primary focus is thus on the mentioned three policies. However, our hand-coding of documents enabled us to take other policies into account where necessary. The main interest of this article is on how attention to NSE as an electoral issue varies across parties by ideology or ‘party family’ and, thus, to check whether there is a general pattern across our cases. Of course, which parties in a given country address the issue can be affected by factors other than party family. First, issue competition arguments would view NSE as a new and potentially divisive political issue. Parties that profit from the status quo shy away from such an issue, whereas opposition and small ‘challenger’ parties are more likely to broach it (De Vries and Hobolt, 2012). Secondly, socio-economic context, such as unemployment levels, may matter. On the one hand, high unemployment may diminish attention to NSE, because it is publicly perceived as a more pressing problem, while NSE may be seen as a way to move people out of unemployment (Marx, 2012). On the other hand, a surge in unemployment can increase insecurity among labour market insiders, thus diminishing the differences in preferences between insiders and outsiders (Rueda, 2006, p. 389). In addition, non-standard, especially temporary, workers are often the first to be affected by employment reductions. Hence, a rise in unemployment can underline the precariousness of NSE and thus increase its salience. Because the time period we study spans the economic crisis of 2008 (see below), we are in fact able to observe the effects of a surge in unemployment. 4. An explorative study of four major cases At the start of this research, the extent to which parties explicitly address NSE in an electoral context at all was uncertain. Consequently, we selected countries where NSE is likely to become a political issue. These are countries with high NSE and with welfare institutions that are maladapted to it, i.e. Bismarckian welfare states where income protection relies strongly on social insurance. Moreover, we selected large West European states in order to reduce variation on other basic parameters. Our country cases comprise Germany, France, Spain and Italy. We cover all parties that received at least 5% of the votes in at least one of the last two elections to the lower house of parliament.2 2 In France, we take vote shares from the first round of the run-off electoral system. However, we omit regionalist parties in Spain, as mobilization on regional interests may affect representation of labour market issues in ways beyond our interest. We consider the last two national parliamentary elections (as of October 2015) because we are interested in a recent assessment, while covering more than one election allows us to reduce non-systematic variation. The covered elections are: Spain 2008 and 2011, France 2007 and 2012, Germany 2009 and 2013 and Italy 2008 and 2013. Thus, we capture for each country one election just before or at the beginning of the global financial and economic crisis and one election in the subsequent phase of austerity. This allows us to assess the effect of a surge in unemployment. We have chosen electoral manifestos as our main source. These documents publicize parties’ official stance before an election on a number of issues that are assumed to be of interest to the electorate. ‘Parties use these documents to announce their policy positions to voters, as well as to mark their starting positions for the process of government formation following an election’ (Benoit et al. 2009, p. 450). A frequent criticism of election manifestos as a source is that they are not widely read. However, they are uniquely valuable because they record the official party position and serve as a publicly accessible reference during and after the election campaign. Although public statements of politicians may deviate from the official party platform and transmission of political messages largely depends on the media, the electoral programme can be used by citizens and journalists to hold parties and politicians to account during and after the election. While our main interest is in the public stance of parties rather than government actions, we account for parties’ track record on labour market reform to check for the credibility of positions. Further, labour unions and employer associations often have an important say in the making of labour market policies, sometimes to the extent that governments delegate reforms to an agreement between social partners. Such practices were rare in the cases and time period analysed in this article. Moreover, as parties did not refrain from expressing their position on the issue of interest, this does not pose an obstacle for our research. We obtained manifestos through party websites, the Comparative Manifesto Project (CMP, https://manifestoproject.wzb.eu), and www.polidoc.net (Benoit et al., 2009). We could not use the coded CMP data because it contains no item specific enough for our purposes. We coded manifestos manually using the software NVivo. Our coding categorizes statements, but does not quantify the manifesto content. Rather, statements are read in the context of the overall manifesto. The coding scheme was developed specifically for this analysis and is reported in the Online Appendix. It implements the following questions: Does the manifesto address NSE (as a general phenomenon or any specific form thereof)? If yes, how is NSE framed and is any statement made regarding its causes and its relation to standard work? Further, what are the explicit policy proposals concerning non-standard work? Even when not explicitly linked to non-standard work, we recorded party positions on main labour market policies. Finally, we collected statements on industrial relations and general economic and social policy without more refined distinction to facilitate an understanding of the policy context. For example, strong support for collective bargaining, without particular emphasis on widening coverage, is more oriented towards labour market insiders than outsiders. This is referred to in the extended case studies in the Online Appendix. What we mean by a party ‘addressing NSE’ amounts to the mentioning of NSE in the manifesto, while taking into account the following aspects: How often and how specifically is it mentioned, and is it highlighted in important sections of the manifesto or ‘buried’ somewhere in the technical details? More precisely, to assess the importance of NSE as an issue we consider two aspects. First, is NSE highlighted in the introduction of the manifesto where parties list their general priorities for the election? This would make it a major topic in the manifesto. Secondly, is NSE mentioned early and extensively in the chapter that deals with labour market policy? This would make it a major labour market policy topic. If mentioned but less prominently and less extensively, it is a minor labour market policy issue. In addition, we compare the relative emphasis on NSE vis-à-vis unemployment in the labour market chapter.3 3 Unemployment has not been systematically coded for the entire electoral programmes. This would have added considerably to the coding complexity as unemployment can be referred to in many ways, e.g. it matters also in economic policies for boosting growth and employment. Instead, we checked for emphasis on unemployment within the labour market policy chapters of manifestos. The coding distinguishes between NSE in a strict sense and more general notions of precarious and low-quality work. We define NSE as those types of dependent employment that deviate from full-time, permanent contracts under direct employer supervision. Main forms include fixed-term contracts, part-time employment and temporary agency work.4 4 Part-time employment often has less problematic socio-economic implications than e.g. fixed-term contracts, especially when voluntarily working part-time, when hours and pay are not extremely low, and when fully integrated into social insurance. For this study there is no need to draw an a priori distinction. Rather, we check empirically to what extent part-time work is characterized as deprived or desirable. However, our analysis remains flexible regarding other, often country-specific types of atypical employment. Our coverage of four major country cases in a qualitative, detailed analysis is a considerable advantage of our research design. The amount of work and the language skills this requires come at the expense of covering more years, a wider range of sources or additional countries. The empirical insights into the party politics of new labour market divides in these four large European states constitute a notable contribution to a literature that has extensively covered labour market changes and micro-level preferences but less the role of political parties. 5. Case studies Given space constraints, we present a brief overview of the labour market, party system and party positions regarding NSE in each country in order to then focus on the comparative discussion. A more extensive account of our findings by party can be found in the Online Appendix. 5.1 Spain Spain has an extremely high incidence of temporary work relative to other European countries. It stood at roughly one-third of total employment in the 1990s and most of the 2000s, but fell more recently as temporary workers were laid off in the crisis (Table 1). The heavily regulated labour market of the Franco era was liberalized asymmetrically in the mid-1980s: dismissal protection remained untouched while it became easier for employers to use fixed-term contracts (Dolado et al., 2002; Marx and Picot, 2014). This provided employers with flexibility in workforce numbers in spite of high hurdles to laying off staff in unlimited contracts. As a result, temporary work boomed (Polavieja, 2006). Since the mid-1990s various governments have tried to limit the two-tier character of the Spanish labour market. One of the more ambitious attempts took place in 2006, under the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, when financial incentives for assuming fixed-term workers in open-ended contracts were strengthened. However, this and similar reforms had no visible effect on aggregate temporary employment (Malo, 2011, pp. 23–30). The share of fixed-term contracts dropped considerably after 2007 due to the burst real estate bubble and economic crisis, as firms chose to reduce payrolls by not renewing fixed-term contracts. At the same time, unemployment surged from 11% in election year 2008 to 22% during the election in 2011. The share of part-time work, by contrast, is moderate (13% in 2011), although it had risen continuously over the 1990s and 2000s. Table 1. Labour market conditions in elections years   Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3    Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3  Note: Temporary and part-time employment are in % of dependent employment. Unemployment is in % of civilian labour force. Source: OECD (2015). Table 1. Labour market conditions in elections years   Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3    Temporary  Part-time  Unemployment  Spain 2008  29.1  11.1  11.3  Spain 2011  25.1  13.3  21.5    France 2007  15.1  14.0  7.5  France 2012  15.1  14.1  9.2    Germany 2009  14.5  22.4  7.8  Germany 2013  13.3  22.9  5.3    Italy 2008  13.3  16.9  6.8  Italy 2013  13.2  19.7  12.3  Note: Temporary and part-time employment are in % of dependent employment. Unemployment is in % of civilian labour force. Source: OECD (2015). Three main parties formed the Spanish party system after transition to democracy. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) on the centre-left was dominant in terms of vote shares and government office over the 1980s and mid-1990s. In the 1990s, the main centre-right party, the Popular Party (PP), caught up in the polls, leading to a bipolar party system. The United Left (IU) stands to the left of PSOE. Although rarely reaching more than 10% of votes in national elections, IU has traditionally constituted an electoral and parliamentary competitor for the PSOE. In 2014, after the last election covered in this article, the rise of left-wing populist party Podemos and liberal centre-right Ciudadanos shook the established three-party system. There is evidence that temporary workers support IU more often relative to workers in open-ended contracts (Marx and Picot, 2014). Table 2 provides an overview of party positions regarding NSE in Spain. To facilitate interpretation, parties are listed from top to bottom according to their position on an economic left–right dimension. This reveals that positions on NSE are in fact structured by the left–right dimension. All three parties address NSE, but it is a major topic only for IU and PSOE. While all parties share a concern about high levels of unemployment, the main focus in the manifesto chapters on labour market policy is in fact on NSE. Remarkably, the PSOE in 2008 put forward an explicit numerical target, by promising to reduce the rate of temporary employment to 25%. Similarly, IU proposed in 2008 a plan ‘to end the process of sustained precarization of [the Spanish] labour market’ (IU 2008, Section 2). IU also most strongly framed NSE negatively. Given the extent of temporary employment, it is hardly surprising that even the PP acknowledged the problem. Still, PSOE and PP highlighted advantages of other forms of NSE, such as part-time. In terms of proposed policies, the IU stressed above all re-regulation of NSE. The PSOE followed a similar line, along with social protection for atypical workers. In contrast, PP preferred deregulating standard employment in order to decrease labour market segmentation. Overall, party positions conform to traditional partisan politics theory. In addition, the strong criticism by the far-left IU coincides with its status as a challenger party, as would be expected by arguments on issue competition. The surge in unemployment during the crisis did not draw attention away from NSE. If anything, salience of NSE slightly increased (in the case of PP). After all, the two phenomena were related as widespread job losses suffered by temporary workers contributed to the rise in unemployment. Table 2. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Spain     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2011. Table 2. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Spain     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2011. 5.2 France Like in Spain, temporary employment in France is used by employers to gain numerical workforce flexibility, given tight regulation of standard employment. Time-limited work contracts were regulated through the courts until legislation was introduced in 1979 (Marx, 2012). In both election years, 2007 and 2012, the share of temporary employment stood at 15% of employment and the share of part-time employment at 14%. While shares of NSE remained stable during the crisis, unemployment went up marginally from 8 to 9% between 2007 and 2012 (Table 1). Gash (2008) shows that temporary workers in France have a low chance of moving into permanent jobs and a high chance of becoming unemployed. Until the 1980s the French party system was neatly divided into a right and a left bloc. The right bloc traditionally comprised two or more conservative parties. In 2002, three of these parties merged and formed the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP, renamed Republicans in May 2015). The left bloc traditionally comprised the Socialist Party (PS) and the French Communist Party (PCF). The 1980s brought significant change to the party system. Particularly salient was the rise of the right-wing populist National Front (FN). On the left, the Communists weakened and a left-libertarian party, the Greens, slowly emerged. This introduced a second dimension of libertarian versus authoritarian positions, represented by the Greens and FN, respectively. In 2007, a new centre party appeared, the Democratic Movement (MoDem), headed by presidential candidate François Bayrou. The distribution of party positions regarding NSE in France again reflects an economic left–right dimension (Table 3). Although all parties frame NSE negatively, the far left places most emphasis on the issue, with attention declining towards the right. Among left parties, NSE was more salient than unemployment (though this weakened in 2012). Among right parties, unemployment was more emphasized than NSE. Proposed solutions also differ across the political spectrum. The PS demands greater reregulation (especially in 2007) and incentives to hire new workers on standard contracts (especially in 2012). The UMP, by contrast, favoured the introduction of a unitary contract, which implies a deregulation of dismissal protection together with a re-regulation of temporary employment. The differentiation of the party system along a libertarian–authoritarian dimension is also apparent. While the PCF demands mostly re-regulation of NSE, the more libertarian Greens stress the need for better social protection. The authoritarian FN stands out by mentioning precariousness in a broader criticism of globalization, and by proposing reindustrialization, which caters to blue-collar workers who often have permanent jobs but feel threatened by international competition. Hence, while the overall left–right distribution in terms of attention to the issue confirms the expectations from traditional partisan theory, the positions of the Greens and FN are in line with research on electoral realignment. The opposition PS’ attention to NSE conforms to arguments on issue competition, as does that of the small PCF/FDG. The moderate rise in unemployment did not diminish the importance of NSE as an electoral issue. Table 3. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in France     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2007 and 2010 for 2012 (therefore, FDG and MoDem are based on their predecessors PCF and UDF respectively). Table 3. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in France     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbent at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2007 and 2010 for 2012 (therefore, FDG and MoDem are based on their predecessors PCF and UDF respectively). 5.3 Germany The German labour market combines strong regulation for core workers with flexibility at the margin (Eichhorst and Marx, 2011; Marx and Picot, 2014). In the 2000s, marginal part-time employment (so-called ‘minijobs’) boomed in the service sector, having been deregulated in 2003 as part of the so-called Hartz reforms. Temporary agency work increased in many manufacturing firms, but overall numbers are much lower than minijobs. Fixed-term contracts have successively been deregulated since the mid-1980s. The most recent deregulation was part of the Hartz reforms. Nevertheless, fixed-term employment grew only modestly. Its share of total employment stood at 13% in 2013 (slightly down from 15% in 2009). Part-time work, including minijobs, is more substantial, at 23% of employment. The German labour market quickly overcame the Great Recession so that between 2009 and 2013 unemployment fell from 8% to 5% (Table 1). For most of the post-war period, West Germany was characterized by a three-party system, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) being the main competing parties, joined by the smaller Liberals (FDP). The 1980s saw the rise of the Green party. After reunification in 1990, the post-socialist PDS became an important player in East Germany. Debate around the Hartz reforms in the early 2000s led a group of left-wing Social Democrats to split off from the SPD and merge with the PDS under the name Die Linke. This helped to increase votes in West Germany. In the 2009 and 2013 elections, Germany thus had a five-party system.5 5 The recent success of ‘Alternative for Germany’ points to the possible rise of a right-wing populist party. In its first federal election, 2013, it got 4.7% of the vote, only narrowly failing to enter the Bundestag. Research shows that non-standard workers in Germany more often (relative to standard workers) support the Greens and Die Linke (Marx and Picot, 2013). Table 4 reveals that the manifesto statements on NSE are again structured by economic left–right positions. All parties address NSE to some extent, but left parties pay more attention to it and frame it negatively, while the political right portrays it more positively. Most German manifestos emphasize unemployment slightly more as a problem, but the actual discussion of policies focuses more on issues related to NSE. In terms of policy proposals, CDU/CSU and FDP favour deregulation of NSE (or modest re-regulation in the case of CDU/CSU in 2013). In contrast, parties on the left demand re-regulation, but with interesting nuances. Die Linke and SPD accompany their attention to NSE with demands close to insider interests, such as maintaining or extending employment protection of standard contracts and strengthening worker co-determination. This is not the case in the Green manifestos. Moreover, while Die Linke almost exclusively demanded re-regulation, Greens and SPD in 2013 stressed better social protection alongside re-regulation. The Green party placed major emphasis on NSE as a social problem already in 2009, before other parties did. The pattern in Germany is, therefore, broadly in line with traditional partisan theory, but differentiations between left parties reflect post-industrial electoral realignment. The more radical approach to NSE by Die Linke is consistent with issue competition arguments, as is the SPD’s shift to more emphasis on NSE when it was in opposition in 2013. In Germany, declining unemployment went along with increased attention to NSE as the focus shifted from unemployment to quality of employment. Table 4. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Germany     Note: Shaded cells indicate incumbents at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1-10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2009 and 2010 for 2013. Table 4. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Germany     Note: Shaded cells indicate incumbents at time of election. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1-10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2009 and 2010 for 2013. 5.4 Italy Italian standard workers in large manufacturing firms attained strong employment protection and generous welfare entitlements in the 1970s. The 1990s and early 2000s saw progressive liberalization of NSE, especially project work and fixed-term contracts (Berton et al., 2012), such as the controversial 2003 Biagi reform adopted by a right-wing government. The reforms facilitated a rapidly rising share of temporary workers, even if since the late 2000s it stabilized around the West European average (see Table 1). The share of part-time work has also risen and is high in international comparison (20% in 2013). Unemployment protection is strongly segmented in Italy and often insufficient for non-standard workers (Berton et al., 2012; Picot, 2012). Overall, these developments have led to precarious labour (lavoro precario) being a frequent term in public debate, normally understood in terms of NSE. There is evidence that precariousness affects political behaviour (Corbetta and Colloca, 2013). The Italian party system has been in almost continuous change since the early 1990s. In the 2008 and 2013 elections the two largest parties were the Democratic Party (PD) on the centre-left and the People of Freedom (PdL) on the centre-right. To the left of the PD, the Rainbow Left (SA) stood for election in 2008 and Left Ecology Liberty (SEL) in 2013. The former was an electoral coalition of three small radical left-wing parties and the Greens. The latter comprises the more left-libertarian constituents of SA but continues to have strong traditional ideological roots compared to the Green parties in France and Germany.6 6 SA received 3.1% in 2008, winning no seats, and SEL 3.2% in 2013, winning 37 seats in the lower house due to its electoral coalition with the PD. By including SA and SEL we make an exception from the rule of including only parties with at least 5% of the votes in at least one of the two elections. This is because the radical left was a small but relevant part of the new Italian party system since the early 1990s, often in alliance with the PD (or its predecessors). In the centre are smaller government-oriented parties such as the Christian-democratic Union of the Centre (UDC) and the Civic Choice (SC) founded by Mario Monti. To the right of PdL stands the regionalist, right-wing populist Northern League (LN). Finally, since 2009 the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) has risen to national relevance. Its anti-establishment platform and electoral success have placed corruption, party funding and reform of political institutions on the national agenda, which is reflected in all parties’ 2013 electoral manifestos. Table 5 summarizes our findings for Italy, which again show a clear left–right distribution. The small, radical left-wing parties, SA and SEL, are most outspoken on NSE. Precarious work is a major topic and strongly framed as a social calamity. All other parties surprisingly treat NSE only as one among other labour market topics. Still, most parties put at least as much emphasis on NSE as on unemployment. The framing of NSE follows a left-right distribution as well. Most parties see NSE as problematic, but towards the right the framing is less explicit or mixed with positive aspects. Also typical in terms of left-right distribution is the emphasis by SA/SEL on re-regulation of NSE, whereas PdL (jointly with LN) supports deregulation. While this corroborates traditional partisan theory, there is also evidence backing post-industrial realignment theory. The more left-libertarian SEL focuses less on general labour demands and more on NSE-specific proposals such as better social protection than its predecessor, the more traditional SA. A similar contrast can be seen between the more modernist PD manifesto of 2008 (when Walter Veltroni headed the party), addressing NSE more specifically, and the more traditional 2013 manifesto (under Pier Luigi Bersani), committed to labour in general. In the electoral programme of M5S NSE was only a minor issue. Table 5. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Italy     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbents in 2008 and the parties supporting the technical government until the election 2013. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2013 (for 2008 SA, PD, and PdL are based on the vote share weighted average of their main two predecessors: RC and Verdi for SA, DS and DL for PD, AN and FI for PdL). Table 5. Summary of manifesto positions on NSE in Italy     Note: Shaded cells indicate the incumbents in 2008 and the parties supporting the technical government until the election 2013. NSE = non-standard employment, LMP = labour market policy, STDE = standard employment. Party positions are on a 1–10 scale, are taken from Bakker et al. (2015), and stem from the closest year prior to the year of interest, i.e. 2006 for 2008 and 2010 for 2013 (for 2008 SA, PD, and PdL are based on the vote share weighted average of their main two predecessors: RC and Verdi for SA, DS and DL for PD, AN and FI for PdL). Issue competition may contribute to explaining why the PD was not more vocal about NSE, as, beyond its incumbency in 2008, it was a key part of the parliamentary majority for the technocratic Monti government in 2013. The rise in unemployment between 2008 and 2013 went along with slightly decreased attention to NSE (by SEL and PdL). Yet, this was arguably unrelated to labour market developments, as M5S had forcefully pushed political institutions and regulation of political parties to the top of the electoral agenda. 6. Comparative discussion Prior to this study, the extent to which political parties address NSE in electoral campaigns was mostly unknown. Our results show that it is in fact a clearly visible topic in the four major West European states analysed. Of the 35 manifestos, it was a major topic in 11, a major topic within the labour market chapter in 12, and only a minor topic in the labour market chapter in another 12. In none of them was the topic not raised at all. The next major objective of this article was to analyse variation across parties. The literature in this respect generates varying expectations: traditional partisan theory expects all left-wing parties to address and criticize the phenomenon; insider–outsider theory holds that left parties cater to labour market insiders or, at best, are confronted by a dilemma between insider and outsider interests; and post-industrial realignment research predicts left-libertarian parties to care about NSE. Left parties in our four states fall into three categories: left-socialist, left-libertarian and social democratic. First, each country had a small left-socialist party in the period of analysis: IU in Spain, PCF/FDG in France, Die Linke in Germany and SA/SEL in Italy. These voice strong, categorical criticism of NSE as precarious. The main countermeasure they propose is to re-regulate NSE. This policy solution often also speaks to concerns by labour market insiders, for example, when Die Linke framed NSE in terms of ‘low-cost competition’ (Die Linke, 2013, p. 6). Secondly, the Green parties in France and Germany can be categorized as left-libertarian. In Germany, the Greens made NSE one of the main topics of their manifestos before other parties did. The French Greens did not put NSE at the forefront of their agenda to the same extent, but emphasized it within their labour market chapter. Both parties stressed more than others the need for better social protection of non-standard workers. This policy directly and unambiguously supports atypical employees while raising costs for standard workers (in form of taxes or social insurance contributions). Thirdly, each country in our sample has a major centre-left party that can be loosely described as social democratic: PSOE in Spain, PS in France, SPD in Germany and PD in Italy. Here, emphasis and criticism of NSE is expressed more mutedly than among the smaller left-wing parties. Also, there is some variation that can tentatively be accounted for by socio-economic context and issue competition. In Spain, the incidence of temporary employment was so high that the PSOE had little choice but to make it a core issue. In France, the PS’s role as opposition party and the persistence of NSE help explain its salience in the manifestos. In Germany, greater attention to NSE by the SPD came during opposition and against a backdrop of relatively low unemployment. Finally, the relatively low attention the PD dedicated to NSE may be explained by its (semi-)governmental responsibility. Among all other parties, centrist and right-wing, none raised NSE as a major topic of their overall electoral programme. In 10 out of 15 non-left manifestos analysed, it was only a minor issue within their labour market chapters. While here we find more often positive evaluations of NSE, still 7 out of 15 mostly presented NSE as problematic. Often, a good example being the Spanish PP, the problem is framed in terms of labour market segmentation and used to denounce protective legislation for standard employment. It is useful to consider how moderate or radical non-left parties are on the socio-economic political dimension. The self-avowed centrist parties, MoDem in France and UDC in Italy, put little emphasis on the issue and took cautious positions. By contrast, the economically most right-wing parties had a clear stance. Thus, the German FDP is the only party that consistently praised the advantages of NSE and demanded further deregulation, and the Spanish PP used NSE to attack labour rights generally. The more moderate, large centre-right parties took more nuanced positions regarding NSE. The Italian PdL mostly supported the deregulated status quo, but proposed to supplement it with incentives for hiring in open-ended contracts. The German CDU took a mostly positive view of NSE in 2009, but shifted to acknowledging the need for some reregulation in 2013. Finally, the French UMP supported the idea of a ‘unitary contract’, combining deregulation of standard employment with re-regulation of NSE. The more drastic position of PP can, apart from ideology, be explained by its opposition status and the size of the problem in Spain. The right-wing populist FN stands out among right-wing parties by demanding to rein in globalization and revive manufacturing, thus catering to blue-collar workers in sectors exposed to international competition. Non-standard work received little attention from FN. In sum, attention to NSE, its framing, and, in some respects, the policy proposals follow a left-right distribution, where far-left parties are most concerned about NSE and criticize it in stronger terms. Economically right-wing parties tend to pay less attention to NSE and more often frame it positively—though not always, largely depending on the incidence of NSE. Further, re-regulation of NSE is commonly demanded on the left of the political spectrum, whereas deregulation of standard employment is often proposed on the right. So far, these findings conform to expectations derived from traditional partisan theory. Yet, left-wing parties differ in their policy proposals regarding NSE as well as how they bundle various labour issues. This variation can be accounted for by post-industrial realignment theory. Left-libertarian parties address NSE more in its own right and more often propose improvements in access to social protection. By contrast, other left-wing parties tend to bundle NSE with working class issues more broadly and prioritize re-regulating NSE, which is more easily in line with insider interests by limiting ‘low-cost’ competition and avoiding the costs of extended social protection. Also in line with post-industrial realignment research, the right-wing populist FN tends to neglect the issue of NSE and focuses on protecting blue-collar workers from international competition. As our findings are mostly in line with traditional partisan theory as well as post-industrial realignment research, what does this imply for insider–outsider theory? Counter to this theory, there is little indication in electoral manifestos that left parties do not care about non-standard work. However, this needs to be qualified by three considerations. First, left-party attention to NSE is often linked to insider concerns. In a few instances, we found that left-party worries about rising NSE are motivated by fear of downward pressure on wages and entitlements of standard workers. Moreover, traditional left-wing parties often bundle NSE with other labour demands such as maintaining dismissal protection. The interests of non-standard workers are thus addressed less in their own right and policy solutions may be subject to what they imply for the core workforce. Secondly, there is of course a potential gap between promise and practice. While left parties criticize precarious employment, it is possible that in practice they prioritize employment security of labour market insiders when push comes to shove. The distinction between electoral claims and actual reform decisions calls for careful analysis of reform processes in further research. Thirdly, party positions may have changed over time, especially as NSE continued to expand. Insider–outsider theory may hold for labour market reforms from the 1980s to mid-2000s. But since then social democratic parties have faced increased pressure to acknowledge that NSE is often precarious and lasting rather than a stepping-stone to stable employment.7 7 We have examined the manifestos of SPD and PSOE also for two elections prior to the ones covered in this article. The SPD shifted from a positive to a negative framing of NSE, which conforms to the idea above. PSOE strongly criticized precarious employment already in 2000 but temporarily swung back to a more benevolent perspective in 2004. Research indicates that some centre-left parties have in recent years deregulated dismissal protection while improving the protection of non-standard workers (Picot and Tassinari, 2017). While we find a general pattern in how different party families address NSE, issue competition and socio-economic conditions can help to account for some of the remaining variation. From the perspective of issue competition, opposition parties and smaller parties have incentives to take up a new and potentially divisive issue. In some cases, the incumbent or opposition status of major centre-left parties seems to have played a role in their positioning regarding NSE (for instance, as apparent in the difference in emphasis on NSE by SPD between 2009 and 2013, and the difference between PS and PD in spite of similar levels of NSE). The far-left parties that are most vocal about NSE have incentives to do so by virtue of being small, opposition parties (except SA in Italy 2008). Yet other small, opposition parties (MoDem, FN, FDP, UDC or M5S) have not addressed NSE to the same extent. This suggests that ideology is more important than challenger status. Finally, in terms of socio-economic conditions and specifically the impact of the economic crisis, the rise of unemployment in Spain, France and Italy did not diminish the salience of NSE. Given its high incidence, attention to NSE was already high, especially among left parties, before the crisis. Rising unemployment was linked to job losses by temporary workers, which underlined the precariousness of many non-standard jobs. In Spain, if anything, the salience of NSE slightly increased due to the crisis. In Italy it slightly declined, but this was associated with reform of political institutions having been pushed to the top of the agenda. While rising unemployment, if anything, further increased the salience of NSE, in Germany falling unemployment also led to higher attention to NSE as the focus shifted from unemployment to quality of employment. Fully accounting for the relationship between unemployment trends and changes in political salience of NSE is beyond the scope of this study. However, our evidence suggests that in these four states the incidence of NSE has reached a level where its political salience is to some extent independent of unemployment. 7. Conclusion This is the first study to systematically identify party positions on NSE across four large European states and the entire political spectrum. Existing literature generates conflicting expectations on whether NSE would emerge at all as an electoral issue and, if so, which parties would push the issue on the agenda. Against this background, our article provides important new insights. NSE is indeed a clearly visible electoral topic in the largest Continental and Southern European states. Far-left parties criticize the rise of NSE most loudly but left-libertarian parties address the interests of non-standard workers more specifically than other left-wing parties. This is in line with traditional partisan politics theory as well as with research on electoral realignment, but less so with insider–outsider theory (see discussion above). Our article makes four contributions. First, it contributes to a better understanding of the politics of new labour market divides. For four major European countries we show where parties stand regarding new and often disadvantaged forms of employment. Our findings that small left-wing parties are most vocal about NSE and that left-libertarian parties address the issue most specifically are in line with research showing that non-standard workers more often support these parties (e.g. Marx and Picot, 2013; Marx, 2015). Hence, there is an intriguing congruence between micro- and party-level results. Secondly, our research adds evidence that precarious work is becoming politicized. Not only does it matter for citizens’ preference formation (as shown by previous research), but it is also taken up by political parties in their electoral campaigns. Thirdly, this article shows that labour market transformations in post-industrial societies are reflected in changing party systems. The ‘socio-cultural’ (second) dimension of European party systems also has implications for socio-economic policy positions (cf. Häusermann, 2010). Fourthly, our results are reassuring regarding the responsiveness of representative democracy when a new social issue arises. There are several ways in which this research should be advanced in the future. Apart from extending it to more country cases, more research of reform processes is needed to distinguish between electoral claims and actual reform decisions. Studies should also reach further back in time to explore the evolution of the topic. Supplementary material Supplementary material is available at Socio-Economic Review online. Acknowledgements Earlier versions of this research were presented at: Annual Meeting APSA 2015 in San Francisco, Democracy and Elections Research Group University of Manchester, International Conference of Europeanists 2014 in Washington DC, Annual Conference of SASE 2013 in Milan, Nuffield College Political Science Seminar, Nuffield College Postdoc Seminar, Research Group on Politics of Social Policy at the Oxford Institute of Social Policy, ECPR Joint Sessions 2013 in Mainz and Social Policy Research Workshop 2012 in Lund. We thank all participants for their comments, in particular Lucy Barnes, Desmond King, Johannes Lindvall, Line Rennwald and Hanna Schwander. We are particularly grateful to Paul Marx for repeated feedback and helpful discussions around this topic. Finally, we thank the reviewers and the editor for their constructive input. Funding We gratefully acknowledge funding from the John Fell Oxford University Press Research Fund. 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