More Rights, Less Power: Labor Standards and Labor Markets in East European Post-communist States
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This paper examines changes in labor markets and labor rights for 13 post-communist states of East Central Europe and the Former Soviet Union. It focuses on the simultaneous pressures to increase the flexibility of labor markets and improve labor standards in the years since the collapse of communism. Comparative measures and patterns of both de jure and de facto standards and flexibility are presented, and the roles of key institutional promoters of change are analyzed. I find that a combination of democratic regime type and European Union accession has pulled East European states toward the strengthening of collective labor rights. The effect is strongest on the states that joined the EU in 2004, weaker for those joining in 2007, while the three post-Soviet, non-accession states remain significantly more labor-repressive. Labor market flexibilization has been a more uniform trend in the post-communist region. In the context of this project’s inter-regional comparisons, contemporary Eastern Europe has the strongest labor rights. At the same time, the decline of trade unions and limits of collective bargaining in most post-communist states undermine the effectiveness of transposed EU legislation and bargaining institutions in empowering labor. As shown by the exceptional case of Slovenia, strong unions are necessary to fully enforce rights.
KeywordsLabor standards Flexibility Labor reform Eastern Europe
The author would like to thank Marsha Pripstein Posusney, Cornel Ban, Katrina Burgess, Melani Cammett, Teri Caraway, Douglas Lippoldt, Mark Morales, and Barbara Stallings for comments at various stages of the writing and Bongani Ngqulunga, Yuri Zhukov, Kenta Tsuda, Francisco Resnicoff, Tiberiu-Lucian Florea, and Gavril Bilev for invaluable research assistance. Support from the Ford Foundation and the Watson Institute is gratefully acknowledged.
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