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The Danish Model: Erosion or new stability

FAOS' research programme 2019-2023

Danish trade unions have continually lost members, although in recent years they have managed to slow the decline. The recruitment of new members is difficult because job growth is taking place in areas where the trade unions have not traditionally been strong. In the employers’ associations, a still limited but growing group of employers opt out of the collective agreements and become so-called associated members. Moreover, the recent collective renewals have been dramatic. In two subsequent public sector bargaining rounds, the need to reform the collective bargaining model was discussed; some even argued that the model did not work in the public domain at all.

In the wake of the private sector negotiations of 2017, there has been an intense debate about coordinated bargaining and the linking of collective agreements, which ensures a uniform development of wages and conditions across industries – a cornerstone of the Danish model. Furthermore, there are ongoing discussions about labour migration, atypical employment  and the emergence of digital platforms. It is unclear whether the Danish model can cope with the pressure, or whether the model’s foundation is about to erode.

Despite these trends, it has been twenty years since the last major industrial conflict in the Danish labour market. In this period there have been only isolated conflicts within the public sector labour market. Overall, employers’ associations and trade unions managed to negotiate solutions during the crisis years. Furthermore, in recent years a number of tripartite agreements were concluded; though they were driven by the government, the social partners were able to deliver what was needed to get the agreements signed. Accordingly, in spite of diverse interests and tensions internally on both the trade unions’ and the employers’ side, the  social partners have been able to enter into agreements with the government on significant societal challenges.

In view of the stable relationship between the employers, trade unions and governments in office, as well as twenty years without major labour market conflicts, could it be that we are possibly entering a new phase of stability? FAOS’ research program for 2019-2023 will focus on the one hand on the cracks in the foundation under the Danish model, and on the other the continued ability to find solutions, in spite of the many and diverse challenges.

Core areas and focus areas

In the period 2019-2023, FAOS’ research programme will unfold within seven project themes, presented below. These seven themes do not have equal ranking, as they are divided into core and focus areas. The core areas of FAOS’s research relate to the organizational and collective bargaining system in the Danish labour market. Thus, there is a focus on organizational development on both the employee and the employer side, including member development, mergers and cooperative relations. Likewise, there is a focus on the collective agreements in the private and public sector labour markets, including the process of negotiations.

The collective agreements are implemented in the workplace, which is why agreements and cooperation within workplaces are also part of FAOS’s core research. The same applies to various types of European Union (EU) initiatives such as labour law directives and verdicts from the European Court of Justice, as well as to EU policy recommendations and coordination with implications for labour market regulation in Denmark.

Linked to the core areas are selected focus areas. In this research programme, we focus on three specific areas: Foreign labour, the future labour market (including digitization and atypical employment ) and the value chains of companies. Whereas research activities in the core areas are financed mainly through the programme grant, research in focus areas is financed primarily through supplementary project grants. The majority of FAOS research activities during the programme period will take place in the core areas.

The goal for the coming programme period is to write and publish books on topics in FAOS core areas. In addition, we will publish articles in high-ranking international and Danish journals and research reports , as well as articles in daily papers, newsletters and the like. For the focus areas, we will publish in the same types of formats, but the extent will depend on project funding.

Project themes

Below we present the seven project themes that create the framework for research projects in the programme period. The project themes cover both core and focus areas of research.

Read the full research programme 2019-2023 in pdf