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The Politics of Low Pay: Corporatism, Left-wing Parties and Low-wage Workers

Resource type
Author/contributor
Title
The Politics of Low Pay: Corporatism, Left-wing Parties and Low-wage Workers
Abstract
Politics has often been conceptualized as a conflict between political parties that represent the economic interests of different groups in society. This conception of politics has, however, been considerably weakened by the economic and social transformations of the last decades and by the rise of post-materialist values among newer generations of electors. Indeed, the vote of manual workers for left-wing parties has declined significantly in recent decades as did the impact of left-wing parties on social spending. At the same time, the issue of low-wage work has become prominent in the partisan debates of several countries such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom following the mobilization of low-paid workers, unions and community associations. Low-wage workers who mainly work in the service sector have often precarious work and living conditions following decades of labor markets deregulation and are highly dependent on governmental policies to insure decent living and work conditions. One of these policies, the minimum wage, has been at the center of the electoral campaigns of many left-wing parties in recent years. However, the issue of low-wage work has rarely been studied in political science. This thesis seeks to explain the partisan dynamics surrounding the issue of low-wage work. My main argument is that low-wage workers tend to vote for left-wing parties in accordance with their economic interests, especially in countries with a weak degree of corporatism such as the United States and the United Kingdom. In those countries, left-wing parties have strong incentives to make pledges related to low-wage work like increasing the minimum wage in their electoral manifesto, because unions are unable to negotiate decent working conditions for the majority of workers. Indeed, in countries with weak corporatism, low-wage workers are very dependent on governmental interventions to ensure minimum working standards and improve their living conditions. In countries with strong corporatism, however, unions negotiate collective agreements that ensure minimum working conditions for the majority of workers, workers with weaker bargaining power are thus less dependent on government policies to insure decent working conditions. Therefore, left-wing parties should be able to consolidate their vote among low-wage workers in countries with a weak degree of corporatism. Once in power, left-wing parties should also increase the minimum wage and the direct cash transfers to low-income families more than governments led by right-wing parties, especially when corporatism is weak. The emphasis on policies targeted to low-wage workers by left-wing parties in countries with a weak degree of corporatism could also limit the capacity of radical parties to attract the vote of low-wage workers. This thesis is composed of 4 articles, one on electoral pledges related to low-wage work, one on the vote of low-wage workers, one on the impact of left-wing parties on minimum wages and one on the impact of left-wing parties on direct cash transfers received by low-income families. These four articles demonstrate the relevance of a materialist conception of politics and the role of institutions regulating the labor market on partisan dynamics.
Type
Ph.D., Political Science
University
University of Ottawa
Place
Ottawa
Date
2023
# of Pages
xiii, 164 pages
Language
English, French
Short Title
The Politics of Low Pay
Accessed
7/25/23, 6:27 PM
Library Catalog
ruor.uottawa.ca
Rights
Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
Extra
Accepted: 2023-01-17T19:04:52Z DOI: 10.20381/ruor-28731
Citation
Durocher, D. (2023). The Politics of Low Pay: Corporatism, Left-wing Parties and Low-wage Workers [Ph.D., Political Science, University of Ottawa]. https://doi.org/10.20381/ruor-28731