Theory of ‘Soft' Policy Implementation in Multilevel Systems with an Application to Social Partnership in the Netherlands
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This paper develops a theory of policy implementation in a specific category of multilevel policy-making systems. In state centric policy systems, regulatory agencies can drift away from ‘hard' decisions. In multilevel systems, relatively autonomous levels of decision-making sometimes implement voluntary, non-binding recommendations and guidelines. In this paper, we adapt the ‘state of the art model' of policy implementation in order to analyse the implementation of ‘soft' policies in these multilevel systems. We propose a new dependent variable of policy implementation: cross-level policy coherence. To explain cross-level policy coherence, a ratification hypothesis is derived from the theory of ‘two-level games’, while two hypotheses regarding agenda coordination and outcome coordination are derived from the concept of collective support for policies. We apply the adapted model to the implementation of the 1997 national Dutch social pact ‘Agenda 2002' in the sectoral collective bargaining agreement in the metal industry in 1998. The empirical evidence rejects the ratification hypothesis and corroborates the two coordination hypotheses, suggesting that the implementation of ‘soft’, non-binding policies can be coordinated across autonomous levels.
Keywordspolicy implementation multilevel governance soft policy collective bargaining
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