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Strengthening social safety nets in Latin America and Southern Europe. Trade unions and pro-outsider policies in Italy and Argentina

by Marcello Natili and Angelica Puricelli (University of Milan)
Labour&welfare Lunch Seminar
5 April 2018, h. 12.30

Discussant: Anna Mori (University of Milan)

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

This article investigates the emergence of new advocacy coalitions supporting what can be labelled “pro-outsider policies” in Argentina and Italia - the FreNaPo, Frente Nacional contra la Pobreza, and the Alleanza Contro la Povertà, respectively - and their consequences for the social policy-making process. These outcomes are indeed theoretically puzzling, and not exclusively because they happened in very different contexts and countries. In fact, scholars have frequently argued that organized labor in the age of austerity is more likely to support insiders - as they constitute its core membership - rather that promoting social policy programs favouring outsiders. In addition, the literature has highlighted the difficulties to create support coalitions in favour of targeted benefits geared towards the most vulnerable sectors of the population. This is because beneficiaries of policies – i.e. the poor – are normally few, with dispersed interest and low political resources. Thus, they are unlikely to organize themselves into a pressure group. Against this background, two intertwined puzzles are addressed: how can we explain the emergence of pro-outsider alliances in Italy and Argentina? Why trade unions were among the main sponsors of these new advocacy coalitions?Through an in-depth comparative analysis of the political process built on a process-tracing methodology, the paper shows that, in the shadow of a different configuration of contextual factors (functional pressures, policy legacy and external pressures), the ability to build pro-outsider coalitions may hinge on the willingness of trade unions to reach out to new constituencies and redistributive demands as a consequence of a loss of “organizational resources” and/or of a relation with privileged political allies. Beside the comparison of two different geographical areas – though not so different in terms of original welfare state configuration - the main contribution of this work is the focus on the politics of social assistance, and in particular on the role of organized labour in relations to non-contributory measures, which has been long denied in the empirical literature, and that current theories fail to fully disentangle.


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.

26 marzo 2018
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