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German employers and the origins of unemployment insurance. Skills interest or strategic accommodation?


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  • Paster, Thomas
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    This paper analyzes the attitudes of industrial employers during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic towards the adoption of public unemployment insurance. While employers initially opposed unemployment insurance, they eventually endorsed it. What explains this shift in attitude? The paper tests two alternative theses: the conventional power resource thesis and the newer skills interest thesis. While the power resource thesis explains social protection as the result of distributive conflicts between employers and labor, the skills interest thesis sees it as an outcome of joint interests in skills investment by capital and labor. The study concludes that the power resource thesis has the greater explanatory power. Employers' support of unemployment insurance was an attempt to defeat other policy options on the agenda rather than an effort to promote skills investment. An unfavorable policy legacy and a sustained change in political majorities are the main factors that explain the change in positions. Fear of rising labor costs and the erosion of work incentives shaped employers' preferences rather than an interest in protecting skills investments. On a more general level, the results show the significant impact of political constraints on the positions actors take and the importance of short-term considerations in processes of preference formation. -- Dieses Papier untersucht die Haltung industrieller Arbeitgeber zur Einführung einer staatlichen Arbeitslosenversicherung in Deutschland zur Zeit des Kaiserreichs und der Weimarer Republik. Arbeitgeber lehnten ursprünglich eine staatliche Arbeitslosenversicherung ab, stimmten ihr jedoch am Ende zu. Was erklärt diesen Positionswandel? Das Papier testet zwei alternative Erklärungsansätze: die konventionelle Machtressourcenthese (power resource thesis) und die neuere Qualifi kationsinteressensthese (skills interest thesis). Die erste These erklärt den Umfang sozialer Sicherung durch Verteilungskonflikte zwischen Arbeitnehmern und Arbeitgebern, die zweite durch gemeinsame Interessen von Arbeitgebern und Arbeitnehmern an Ausbildungsinvestitionen. Die Studie kommt zu dem Schluss, dass die Machtressourcenthese den Haltungswandel besser erklärt als die Qualifikationsinteressensthese. Die empirische Analyse zeigt, dass Arbeitgeber die Einführung einer staatlichen Arbeitslosenversicherung unterstützten, um andere Optionen abzuwehren, nicht um höhere Qualifikationsniveaus zu fördern. Die Studie identifiziert die Überwindung eines als problematisch bewerteten Politikerbes sowie den Wandel politischer Mehrheitsverhältnisse als die wichtigsten Erklärungsfaktoren. Die wirtschaftlichen Auswirkungen einer Arbeitslosenversicherung sahen Arbeitgeber kritisch: Sie erwarteten primär höhere Lohnkosten und geringere Arbeitsanreize, nicht jedoch eine höhere Bereitschaft zu Ausbildungsinvestitionen. Die Studie verdeutlicht den Einfluss sich wandelnder politischer Zwänge auf die inhaltliche Positionierung politischer Akteure sowie ihre oft kurzfristige Orientierung bei der Präferenzbildung.

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    Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in its series MPIfG Discussion Paper with number 11/5.

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    Date of creation: 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:115

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