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Rps 2 2017

È disponibile online il numero 2/2017 di Rps. Il fascicolo dedica la sezione monografica al welfare occupazionale. Nella sezione Attualità si discute di diseguaglianze di salute.

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Occupational welfare and welfare state: a virtuous fit?

2

2017

April - June

Description

The monographic section of no. 2/17 of RPS analyses the more or less virtuous ways in which occupational welfare and state welfare can fit together. Drawing on the existing literature – particularly comparative studies – it aims to capture the new challenges of the expansion of occupational welfare in the framework of the broader changes in the mixture of welfare in Italy. To evaluate both the possibilities and risks, the critical features and the potential challenges of the expansion of occupational welfare – particularly in its corporate form – the article concentrates on two aspects: the characteristics of the Italian welfare state, and the specific features of the various sectors of social policy. The aim is to analyse the ways in which the pre-existing forms of state welfare and the new company models can fit together. In the Attualità section there is a discussion of health inequalities, while the debate starts from the question at the centre of Chiara Saraceno’s recent book on the seeming obviousness of the concept of family, which often conceals ambiguities.

To buy this issue go to the italian version

THEME: Occupational welfare: rules policies actors

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Occupational welfare: the challenges beyond the promises. An introduction
If we take a comparative viewpoint, the Italian welfare model has traditionally accentuated the role played by the two institutional spheres – the state and the family – while the market (private insurance) and intermediary bodies (including trade unions) have played a marginal role in providing protection for various risks and social needs. In the last twenty-five years, however, we can note that two periods (1992-95 and 2008-14) of economic, employment and public finance crisis, as well as the increased openness of domestic policymaking to «external» influences and pressures – particularly the European Union and the financial markets (Ferrera and Gualmini, 1999; Jessoula, 2013; Sacchi, 2015) – have been critical moments for this welfare model. [...]
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Productivity bonuses and corporate welfare: thoughts on the Italian situation
Many countries have recently strengthened decentralized bargaining to increase competitiveness and linked wages to productivity. In Italy the last two Budgetary Laws have introduced important changes regarding tax-exempt productivity bonuses and welfare benefits. As a result, the number of firms and workers involved in decentralized bargaining has increased, as have workers’ salaries. If a firm’s contracts provide welfare benefits, workers can freely choose to enjoy their productivity bonuses in cash or benefits. This is a further incentive for firms and unions to bargain at firm level, however there is also an issue of potential crowding out of universal public welfare if welfare benefits in firm-level contracts should become too popular and generous.
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Corporate welfare and supplementary health care. Some hidden costs
In the public arena, there is a widespread tendency to consider tax relief for corporate welfare a win-win solution, a measure that brings benefits without any costs. The article questions this position as regards health care, It argues that tax relief for corporate health care gives rise to two sets of costs. On the one side, some pay, in the form of a loss of public revenues, for health care services that benefit others. On the other, tax relief for corporate health care could negatively affect the National Health Service.
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Bonuses in welfare today, what pension tomorrow?
The Budgetary Laws for the years 2016 and 2017 introduced a new «salary sacrifice» mechanism: from now on, employees will be able to choose whether to receive their yearly bonuses in cash or as welfare benefits in kind. This system has been boosted through the introduction of fiscal regulations that allow both parties not to pay taxes and pension contributions on the amount of the bonus. For companies, the novelty guarantees savings, while workers save today, but will definitely pay a price once they retire. The article aims to identify risks and opportunities through a calculation of the amount of the «pension loss» for employees if they choose to convert their bonuses into tax-facilitated welfare services each year.
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The difficult integration of public and private pensions in Italy
This article discusses opportunities and risks of private pension schemes in Italy by presenting the main indicators on the development of these schemes and some analysis of the performance of private pension funds. The article also evaluates the prospects of supplementary pensions in a context where, on the one hand, the continual raising of retirement age reduces the need for pension integration for workers with continuous careers, while, on the other, liquidity constraints prevent precarious and disadvantaged workers participating in private pension funds, though they would stand to benefit most from being able to increase their future pension.
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Integrative health care funds and policy drift. A structural transformation of the Italian Health Service?
This article focuses on the expansion in Italy of integrative health care funds, which (theoretically) aim to provide supplementary coverage in addition to the National Health Service. This expansion has been stimulated by several factors, one of which is the significant development in occupational welfare schemes in recent years, a change, the article argues, that has both pros and cons. On the one hand, integrative health care funds have guaranteed wider access to health care for a significant part of the Italian population, while, on the other, a negative impact in terms of differentiation and dualisation among categories has emerged. There is also the risk that, given the growing substitutive role played by integrative health care funds, there could be a policy drift by which these schemes could actually become a tool for undermining the universalism of the Italian National Health Service.
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Corporate welfare and reconciliation policies: gender equality and time available for care-work
Reconciliation policies have effects not only on female employment, but also on the distribution of care responsibilities between men and women and, therefore, on gender equality. Likewise, occupational welfare policies in the area of work-life balance also have different impacts in terms both of time available for care-work and of career opportunities for female employees in particular. This paper analyses the worklife balance policies implemented in several companies through the study of 148 company-level agreements signed between 2004 and 2014, with the aim of identifying potential «employers’ strategies» as well as different company strategies from a gendered perspective.
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Health and family support: the role of the bilateral territorial bodies
«Bilateral welfare» could prove to be a promising way to provide occupational welfare benefits to workers employed in fragmented production sectors, likely to remain excluded from the development of company welfare. But what are the welfare benefits currently offered by bilateral bodies? To address this question, the article proposes a mapping of the measures implemented by the bilateral territorial bodies operating in the construction, agriculture, artisan, tertiary and tourism economic sectors. The mapping focuses on two specific policy areas that, for different reasons, seem to be problematic in the context of the Italian welfare state: health care and family policies. An analysis of the empirical evidence collected suggests some reflections on the limitations and prospects of bilateral welfare as a part of the ongoing reconfiguration dynamics of the Italian social protection system.
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The union movement, the unions and the challenge of occupational welfare
At a time when social pacts tend to be replaced by unilateral action on the part of governments, there has also been a resumption of tradeunion unity, which has also led to a substantial alignment of opinion on the advisability of developing occupational welfare. This development seems to be increasingly linked to the configuration of collective bargaining: from the pressures on decentralization to concession bargaining dynamics. In these areas, the main differences between confederations and sectors do not involve conflicting opinions on the strengthening of corporate welfare and the debate on a possible «erosion » of productivity bonuses.
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Employers’ associations in welfare policies: the case of conciliation policies in Germany and Italy
In the debate about the factors and the actors behind social policy developments, most studies concentrate on political parties and coalitions, social movements and trade unions. Less attention is usually given to employers and employers’ associations. In the last fifteen years a growing body of research has begun to give a more nuanced analysis of the role of employers. In our contribution we consider approaches to the role of employers’ associations in social policy, which offers precious insights for understanding employers’ behaviours. What these approaches share is the idea that employers and their associations are not necessarily against social policies. On the contrary, they might actively support them and have good (economic and strategic) reasons for doing so. This paper analyses changing labour market participation and skill compositions as well as employer preferences as important factors explaining the development of employment- oriented family policies.
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The new season of corporate welfare
Until recently corporate welfare was an internal question for the negotiations of individual union sectors, and it was mainly a matter of «extra» contributions to those envisaged in the salary terms. Now the situation is very different in two respects. First, the de-financing of public expenditure in every sector connected with health, welfare and services has been accompanied by public financing of forms of private welfare deriving from union negotiations. Secondly, the main areas of welfare, health services included, are now seen as a business opportunity. Clearly, when corporate welfare becomes connected with the universal sphere of the rights of persons, it can no longer be considered a question concerning only the individual negotiators, but should be part of a project shared by all, whether included or excluded, or at risk of being excluded from their rights and from political protection. That is why the unions should develop their own independent project or local welfare, which can be part of sector negotiations and help develop confederal negotiations on social policies.
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TOPICAL QUESTION: Health inequalities in Italy

Two years after the report on Health Equality in Italy: facts explanations solutions responsibilities
Social inequalities in health, i.e. systematic and avoidable variations in health indicators among social groups, are relatively low in Italy compared to the rest of Europe, due to the social distribution of protective factors, such as the Mediterranean diet and social capital, and to the role of the national health care system. Nevertheless, the impact of the economic crisis as well as the social trend of many behavioural risk factors are putting at risk this comparative advantage and have encouraged the implementation of a national strategy to tackle health inequalities, as requested by the European Union. Under the stimulus of the institutional commitment of the Health Commission of the Conference of the Regions, in 2011 there was a nation-wide attempt to increase awareness of this issue among decision makers and stakeholders, set priorities for policies, and identify the most promising, effective and innovative actions. This paper describes the main steps of this process.
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The health of the weakest: backwaters of inequality scars and social innovation
Inequalities in health are important not only for their damage to the well-being of the population but also because they are indicative of the degree of social justice and civilization nation-wide. Both Italian and international research shows evidence of the effectiveness of specific interventions that produce positive effects on health and that the government should implement as a priority, even at a time of economic crisis. Instead, as international reports attest, almost all countries affected by the recession have failed to adopt programmes to monitor the effects arising from spending cuts on public health services. New financial instruments to sustain social needs are been introduced, especially in the English-speaking world, but also in our country; we need evidence that the collaboration between public sector and private financiers could provide a real opportunity to cope with the lack of public sector resources. The risks and critical issues of this approach are discussed in the article.
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DEBATE: What is the family?

The family: from social construct to economic entity
This article examines two theoretical vision of the family, those of Friedrich Engels and Gary Becker, both of which are criticized by feminist economic research. The two authors begin from a phrase in the introduction to Chiara Saraceno’s book (2017): «The reader will not find» – wither in the book or our article – «unequivocal definitions of what is, or what should be, the family, but questions, doubts and suggestions for changes in our perspective».
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Family and welfare: changes and new challenges
The article analyses the main theme of Chiara Saraceno’s new book (L’equivoco della famiglia, 2017): the equivocal concept of family. Through a discussion on the existing literature and an analysis of public debates on maternity and paternity, gender asymmetries and the difficulty of transition to adult life for young people, it examines the evolving relationship between the family, the state and the labour market. In particular, the article focuses on the role of the Italian family throughout the three different «Welfare State Ages» and on how social and political strategies compare with the rest of Europe.
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In-depth analysis

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The career paths of two cohorts of workers over fifty who have been laid off
The subject of the article are career paths from the end of career to retirement. The research was conducted with statistical data from Inps regarding the evolution of the annual employment status of two «generations» of workers over the age of 50 with a mobility allowance in the year 2000 and the year 2005. The study gives a comparative analysis of their career paths in the eight years following dismissal, focusing on the different evolution of employment status by cohort and by age. The analysis examines the career paths, considering social protection, employment, unemployment, inactivity and retirement. The results are discussed in the theoretical framework of the Political Economy of Ageing considering the changes in institutional regulations.
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Social Question and Neo-populism

Features

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Populists: when anti-pluralism meets the welfare state
The article considers the populism that has emerged in European countries in recent years and its relation with social policies. After analyzing the new relation between leaders and parties, the article concentrates on the profile of populist leaders and the arguments they express. National identity, borders, globalization and elites – the antipluralism expressed by many exponents has precise coordinates that have their origins in the continuing economic crisis and the questions ignored by traditional politics. As a result, welfare policies, when they are left in the hands of populist leaders, run the serious risk of becoming a means to destabilize liberal democracies. The conclusion of the article offers a first response to the questions discussed.
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