Comparative European Politics

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

No Flexicurity without trade unions: The Danish experience

  • Philip RathgebEmail author
Original Article


The literature of comparative political economy considers the Danish “Flexicurity” model the egalitarian variety of contemporary capitalism. This article, however, contests this common assessment by tracing the gradual policy changes that led to an erosion of its security-related components. Comparing the rise and erosion of the Danish “Flexicurity” model, it argues that the explanation for this reform trajectory lies in the exclusion of the labour movement from the policy-making process. Danish minority governments gained little by involving unions, because they were no longer reliant on an extra-parliamentary channel of consensus mobilisation. Flexible majority-building in the parliamentary arena allowed them to seek their preferred policy output independent from union consent. The onset of the Great Recession therefore allowed governments of the right as well as the left to dismiss the one single actor that mobilised political support for workers at risk of unemployment. Without the involvement of organised labour, the concept of “Flexicurity” cannot live up to its promise of mitigating economic uncertainty on a volatile labour market.


Flexicurity Denmark Labour market policy Trade unions Government Social security 



I would like to thank Hanspeter Kriesi, Pepper Culpepper, Johan Christensen, and Christian Lyhne Ibsen for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. In addition, I acknowledge the conversations about this article with Anja Sahora, Anders Juhl Aagaard, Kasper Ly Netterstrøm, Frederik Hjorth, Lukas Hakelberg, and Max Schaub.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and Public Administration, Chair of Political Science, especially Policy Analysis and Political TheoryUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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