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Socio-educational services in Italy between public, private and hybrid solutions. Working conditions, models of labour regulation and trajectories of transformation

by Lisa Dorigatti, Anna Mori and Stefano Neri, University of Milan

Labour&welfare Lunch Seminar
21 March 2018, h. 12.30

Discussant: Stefania Sabatinelli (Polythecnic University of Milan)

SPS Seminar Room (Room 215, II Floor,  Passione side)
Dipartimento di Scienze sociali e politiche
Via Conservatorio 7, Milano

Austerity policies and severe public spending cuts after the explosion of the financial and sovereign-debt crisis have sparked renewed attention over the longstanding processes of externalisation and privatization in the provision of public services (Bordogna and Neri 2014, Grimshaw et al. 2015, Mori 2017). Two different streams of literature have analysed outsourcing decisions by public institutions and their effects on employment and working conditions. On the one hand, the industrial relations literature has focused on the interconnections of outsourcing and the labour market and highlighted a number of institutional features which influence the form and pace of outsourcing of public services (Grimshaw et al. 2015). On the other hand a second stream of literature focused on the main determinants driving public institutions to resort to the market for the provision of public services. These include the maximisation of cost-efficiency, fiscal stress and the ideological orientation of the public administration. Interestingly, these two literature streams have rarely spoken to each other. As main contribution, this paper aims at integrating the insights coming from these two research traditions to analyse patterns of outsourcing (public-private mix) in the Italian socio-educational services. In particular it explores how the transformations of the welfare mix and the progressive increase in the share of services provided by non-public subjects (both private and hybrid) have impacted on the working conditions of those who work in socio-educational services in Italy. The empirical evidence is based on 81 semi-structured interviews with key informants at both national and local level (municipal administrators and managers, managers of private and hybrid providers, trade unionists and managers of provider associations). Interviews are complemented by documentary analysis of reports and official documents and the systematic comparison of collective labour agreements applied to different groups of workers. We will show that decisions on how to provide such services are strongly connected to the regulation of the labour market in the sector and, in particular, to the a significant fragmentation of employment conditions which characterises it according to the nature of the employing organisation. The possibility to access to labour market segments displaying different degrees of regulation is a key explanatory variable for these organisational decisions. However, we will also show that socio-political factors, like citizens' and trade unions' opposition to outsourcing, need to be taken into consideration since they explain to a large extent the diffusion of peculiar organisational forms for the provision of socio-educational services. Moreover, we will highlight that these factors play out differently in different segments of the socio-educational sectors. In some of them, labour market related factors seem to play a stronger role in public administrations' outsourcing decisions, while in other where they play a more marginal role the political dynamics seem to be stronger.

The Labor & Welfare Lunch Seminars are a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas devised by a group of post-doctoral fellows from the Department of Social and Political Sciences where young researchers dealing with issues related to the labor market, labor and welfare policies and industrial relations can present and discuss their work.

21 febbraio 2018
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