Representativeness of social partners and the impact in economic governance


In Europe and all over the world, both workers and employers associations perform a crucial regulatory role in the labour market. Through collective bargaining (CB), they settle bilateral agreements on wages and working conditions, contributing to overcoming labour inequalities. In many countries, these agreements are extended to non-affiliated companies and workers. However, while extension procedures (EPs) prevent social dumping, it has been also argued that EPs impose wage rigidity, encouraging non-compliance of collective agreements, and free-riding. Recent neoliberal policies implemented labour market reforms, especially in Southern Europe, weakening CB. In Portugal, for instance, where CB is mainly based on the mutual recognition of social partners, the Memorandum of Understanding introduced a criteria based on the so called density of employers associations. This measure led to a sharp drop in CB coverage, leaving many workers unprotected. Only later, the addition of a new criterion proposed by social partners, led CB to start to pick up slightly.
Representativeness entitles social partners to act on behalf of their members, providing legitimacy for
their participation in democratic societies. However, existing studies and political agencies tend to restrict
representativeness to the analysis of the number of members and focuses mainly on trade unions.
Considering that representativeness is a multifaceted concept, the REP project will, for the first time, take into
account, not only membership, but also the composition similarity between representatives and represented, and the congruence between representative actions and represented interests. Furthermore, the project considers both employers associations and trade unions.


Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa

PI - Doutora Raquel Rego

representativeness, social partners, economic governance
Funding Entity
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology