My research initiated from the observation that the national dispute on labour market deregulation in Japan and Germany since the 1990s has been strikingly similar. In particular, the pro-reform rhetoric in both countries has described labour market deregulation and enhanced flexibility as virtually inevitable, due to globalisation and the long period of economic stagnation. It is interesting to note, however, that Japan and Germany are usually described as reluctant reformers, despite the fact that they differ in almost all features of their governance systems that according to conventional political science theory shape a country’s ‘reform capacity’. I use this constellation for a comparative analyse of the issue of labour market flexibility, which goes beyond regulatory aspects and which features a comparatively stable set of actors and actor interaction. Drawing from qualitative and quantitative data, I aim to re-connect some of the often isolated theoretical perspectives of comparative research and to generate new insights into recent questions of this research field regarding policy output (e.g., explaining different country approaches to reform) and policy process (e.g., shifts in the balance of power between actors).
This presentation is based on my PhD project at the Institute of Political Science at Heidelberg University and is embedded in the institute’s long-standing research focus on comparative welfare research. As this is work in progress, I will present some initial findings but also talk about the theoretical foundations of the research and issues concerning its practical application.
Steffen Heinrich is a doctoral student at the Institute of Political Science at Heidelberg University and currently a doctoral research fellow at the DIJ.